Guided butterfly, botanical & birdwatching holidays
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La Brenne at Leisure

 

Dates & Prices

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Dates: 20 – 27 June 2018

Price: £1,275

Single Room Supplement: £100

Deposit: £150 per person


Price Includes: All meals, accommodation with private facilities, ground transport, services of the guides, holiday report & a donation to Butterfly Conservation

Not Included: Flights, travel insurance, drinks and any other personal items

Conservation Donation: 10% of profits donated to Butterfly Conservation

Leader: Jason Mitchell

Group Size: Minimum of 4 and a maximum of 12 guests plus 1-2 leaders.

Grade: Gentle pace. Ideally suited to photography

Holiday Highlights


  • Enjoy a truly relaxed wildlife holiday with minimal travelling and maximum time in the field
  • Rich birdlife, including Bee-eater nesting colonies, Hoopoe, Golden Oriole, Black Kite, Hen Harrier,  up to 9 members of the heron family, Whiskered Tern & many more!
  • See a good number of the 97 species recorded in the area such as Camberwell Beauty, Large Chequered Skipper, Lesser Purple Emperor, Map, Woodland Brown, Large & Alcon Blue
  • Dragonflies! Almost 70 recorded in La Brenne
  • Plenty of flowers too. 36 orchid species recorded in the Park & we should see around 20 of those
  • Relaxed pace suitable for photography & full enjoyment of the area for its scenery and wildlife
  • Contribute to Butterfly Conservation

Relax and explore the wildlife rich surrounding of La Brenne Natural Regional Park at leisure this summer, with guide and local resident Jason Mitchell!

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Holiday Guide

Jason Mitchell was born and raised in Devon where, from an early age he developed a passion for birds and other wildlife, especially dragonflies and butterflies. From his earliest volunteering experience on the Exe Estuary he dreamt of working in conservation and after returning to education in his mid-twenties, graduated from Plymouth University and started work for the RSPB as a warden on the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths. Since then he’s worked on various conservation projects for local government and the Wildlife Trust. In 2010 Jason returned to the RSPB as Warden for the North Kent Marshes.

In June 2013, he moved to La Brenne in France with his wife and young family in pursuit of a new challenge. La Brenne was an obvious choice for Jason; his wife is French and having visited the Loire Valley over many years fell in love with the ‘Land of a Thousand Lakes’. Now well established, he works as a tree surgeon in the winter months and a nature guide in the summer. Specialising in wildlife tours within France, he also leads across Europe, having done so since 2007.


New for 2017! A laid back look at the abundant wildlife in La Brenne, with local guide Jason Mitchell.

Often called the Land of a Thousand Lakes, La Brenne Natural Regional Park (a status similar to a National Park in UK terms) is a hidden wildlife gem located in Central France just south of the Loire Valley. A mosaic of fish ponds, lakes, reedbeds, flower-rich meadows, heaths and broad-leaved forest set in a traditional farmland landscape makes for a uniquely diverse flora and fauna. Yet the Park is not vast, totalling 166,000 hectares and is roughly 30 by 40 miles across. As such, La Brenne can be explored without the need for long periods on the road and its well-maintained network of small, hedge-flanked roads give easy access across the Park.

Birds provide significant interest at any time of year but the spring and early summer are most productive. Members of the heron family are particularly well represented with nine species on offer during the summer; Little Bittern breed in small numbers, whereas Purple and Night Herons are common. Garganey and Red-crested Pochard are some of the more eye-catching ducks and other water birds include the Black-necked Grebe. The latter is one of La Brenne’s most important species as it holds well over 10% of the French breeding population and in a good year 200 pairs of this stunning species nest here. Another important bird and one synonymous with the Park is the Whiskered Tern; La Brenne is nationally important for this elegant species with up to 1000 pairs nesting in colonies on floating water lilies. Birds of prey are well represented; Black Kite are particularly common, while Honey Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle, Hen and Montague’s Harriers are not difficult to find. A number of farmland bird species once common in the UK are still regular breeders, Corn Bunting, Turtle Dove, Quail and Stone Curlew are all well distributed. Unlike in the UK, the Turtle Dove is still common and its soft purring song is a feature in any favourable habitat. The passerines hold some pleasant surprises too, dozens of warbler feature with Savi’s, Melodious, Bonelli’s and Great Reed Warbler some of the stand-out species. Although Wryneck, Red-backed Shrike, Black Redstart, Serin, Hoopoe, Golden Oriole, Nightingale and Cirl Bunting can all be found in the UK, in La Brenne they are widespread and common. Perhaps one of the region’s most spectacular birds is the Bee-eater and no trip is complete without a visit to one of their river-bank, nesting colonies.

With large areas of traditionally managed farmland and forest with associated meadows, wetland and heath, butterflies should abound and indeed they do; an impressive 97 species have been recorded across La Brenne. For the visiting naturalist, some of the more exciting butterflies include Scarce Swallowtail, Camberwell Beauty, Lesser Purple Emperor, Southern White Admiral, Map, Pearly Heath, Large Chequered Skipper, Great Banded Grayling, Woodland Brown, Ilex Hairstreak, Sooty Copper, Large and Alcon Blues. Several Fritillary species occur: Knapweed, Glanville, Heath, Marsh, Weaver’s, Meadow and Marbled can all be common by mid-summer. Species which occur in the UK in small numbers or as rarities are often frequent in La Brenne and include Berger’s Clouded Yellow, Short-tailed Blue, Swallowtail and Black Hairstreak. During a typical week-long summer tour it’s possible to notch up more than half the ‘Brenne list’!

As you would imagine with so much wetland habitat available, dragonflies are common and almost 70 species have been recorded in La Brenne; to put this into context, the entire UK list stands at 42 resident species! In addition to many of those also found in the UK, several exciting non-British species are on the wing by early summer including the Orange Featherleg, Dainty Bluet, Blue-eye, Western Willow Spreadwing, Orange-spotted Emerald, White-tailed Skimmer, Scarlet Darter, Yellow and Western Clubtails and Small Pincertail.

For the botanist there’s much interest too, particular where orchids are concerned with an impressive 36 different species growing within the Natural Regional Park. Naturally, not all are in flower at the same time but it’s not uncommon to record 20 or more in a week during the height of the season.

This promises to be a fantastic and very popular tour – we recommend booking early to avoid disappointment!

    

The following itinerary is not set in stone and may change in response to the weather forecast and prevailing conditions. La Brenne Natural Regional Park is approximately 30 by 40 miles and most planned visits are within a short drive of our hotel meaning we won’t spend long periods travelling between sites. After breakfast, the day will commence at a leisurely pace around 9.00am. Following our morning visit and weather permitting, we will enjoy our picnic lunch under the sky. Fed and watered, we continue our quest to see La Brenne’s unique wildlife before returning to our accommodation around 5.30pm, where you will have plenty of time to freshen up ahead of a sumptuous meal prepared by Bernard, our resident chef and host.

Day 1: Arrival & meet in Tours

We will meet in Tours during the afternoon, an ideal place due to excellent air & rail services and links. Once all together we will drive you to Mezieres-en-Brenne by minibus lasting around an hour and a half. After settling into your rooms, we will enjoy our first dinner together where we will discuss the week ahead.

 Day 2: Grande Brenne

During our first day in the field we will visit a number of La Brenne’s numerous small lakes (étangs). Many are protected for their rich wildlife communities; Black-necked Grebe, Garganey and Whiskered Tern all breed, the latter can be seen hawking for insects almost anywhere in the Park. During June, Great Reed, Melodious and Savi’s Warblers will be in full song. An avian feature of La Brenne is the wide variety of breeding herons, nine species in total, including Little Bittern, Squacco and Purple Herons. From mid-summer onwards the lakes are alive with dragonflies; Southern Darter can be especially common but less familiar species like Southern Migrant Hawker and Willow Emerald Damselfly are likely to be encountered around lush vegetation bordering water-bodies. These same areas host an abundance of wild flowers including many species of orchid; close to 40 species can be seen over the spring and summer months.

Day 3: Lancosme Forest

A short drive towards the eastern boundary of the natural regional park find us exploring a large forested area which is noted for its rich butterfly assemblage. The forest is home to the Woodland Brown, a European Protected Species and one of France’s (and possibly Europe’s) rarest butterflies. Forest rides provide excellent habitat for butterflies and it is here where we may find both species of Purple Emperor (Greater and Lesser) and dragonflies like the Yellow-spotted Emerald which are often seen patrolling up and down. A number of small streams wind their way through the woodland and open stretches are home to both Beautiful and Banded Demoiselles and these are often joined by species absent from the UK, including the White-tailed Skimmer. The flora is notable too with several species of orchid growing along the woodland edge. Birds also feature, especially woodpeckers: Black, Middle-spotted and Lesser-spotted are often heard and occasionally seen and Golden Orioles are never far away.

 Day 4: Suin Valley

Today we head south to a limestone area well known for its rich flora and this in turn makes for a diverse butterfly fauna. One of our targets will be the attractive Woodland Grayling, perhaps not well-named as we usually find it flying over the flower-rich grassland often in the company of showy Adonis Blues which can be common. Other exciting species regularly encountered include: Pearly Heath, Great Banded Grayling and Weaver’s Fritillary. Birds are never far away and several raptors breed locally; we may be lucky enough to catch view of the charismatic Honey Buzzard or the dashing Hobby. Dragonflies use the area to feed-up before returning to the wetlands to breed and the unusual Small Pincertail can be seen basking on bare ground as can reptiles, like the striking Western Green Lizard. After lunch we spend the afternoon visiting a goat farm where the owner, a passionate butterfly enthusiast, manages much of the land with butterflies in mind. Here we have another chance of seeing the rare Woodland Brown along with such beauties as the Large Blue, Marbled Fritillary and Map butterfly. An interesting range of wildflowers includes Fragrant Orchid and Müllers Helleborine.

Day 5: Creuse Valley

The river Creuse cuts its way through limestone and over millennia has formed impressive chalk cliffs along its shores. This has made for a unique microclimate rich in flowers. Most eye catching are the orchids and several species are to be found, including Greater Butterfly, Bee, and Lizard. Dragonflies associated with running water are present here; species of Emerald Dragonfly can be found along with the enigmatic Western Spectre, a species known for its unusual habit of flying in deep shade. Grey Wagtails are common and Kingfisher are often seen as they zip past, piping noisily and the frequent river-side poplar plantations are enlivened by the songs of Golden Orioles. The day will be topped by a visit to a river-bank colony of Bee-eaters, arguably Europe’s most exciting and colourful bird species.

 Day 6: Brenne bocage

Today we head out in search of birds and other wildlife associated with arable, pasture and meadows. Cirl Bunting and Stone Curlew are sought after species in the UK but in La Brenne both remain quite common. Another exciting bird likely to be encountered is the Montagu’s Harrier which quarter the fields in search of prey; along with Hen and Marsh Harriers the three have been known to use the same hunting areas. Hedgerows are a good habitat for a number of passerines; both Red-backed Shrike and Melodious Warbler are common and Quail is frequently heard giving its characteristic “wet-my-lips” song from deep cover within arable fields. Much of Europe, particularly the UK, have lost many once-common farmland species like the Turtle Dove, Corn Bunting and Woodlark but all three are still easily found in La Brenne.

Day 7: Brenne re-visited

For our final full day in La Brenne we leave things a little more open-ended and our visits will likely see us return to some of our favourite sites from earlier in the week, perhaps in an effort to catch up with a species or two that escaped us the first time around. No doubt we will also visit some new areas in the heart of La Brenne which has so much to offer like the heron colony at Bellebouche where we’ll enjoy the sights and sounds of nestling herons and egrets clambering around in the willow trees while eagerly awaiting their next meal. Our pace is always leisurely but today especially so and this should leave time to enjoy an extra coffee or ice-cream somewhere!

 Day 8: Departure

A leisurely departure from our hotel will see us arrive in Poitiers or Tours where we will start the next leg of our journey back to the UK.

New holiday – testimonials will appear next year

New holiday – report will follow later

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Telephone: 01473 254658 (Mon - Sat 9am - 6pm)

Email: enquiries@greenwings.co.uk

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