Join us in the eastern French Pyrenees for a feast of spring butterflies & flowers!
The eastern French Pyrénées (Les Pyrénées Orientales in French) lie along the French border with Spain and Andorra. They are the eastern part of the chain of mountains linking the Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean Sea and were once part of Spain. The area is often referrred to as ‘French Catalonia’; indeed a minority of the population still speak the Catalan dialect. The dominant climatic influence of the Eastern Pyrenees is the Mediterranean; the climate is warmer and the days sunnier than elsewhere in the Pyrenees.
The Pyrénées National Park was created in 1967 and its mountains made from crystalline and sedimentary rocks are a national heritage without barriers or fences providing a sanctuary where wildlife are totally free to move around without human exploitation. Today, the park rangers do much to monitor, protect and enhance the wildlife which lives there. There is breathtaking variety in the fauna and flora occupying the very different ecosystems found in alpine, sub alpine and montane forest zones, river valleys and escarpments. Golden Eagles, Bearded, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures soar effortlessly on the updraughts. Butterflies flutter all over the mountains and foothills adorned with gorgeous wild flowers like beautiful Pyreneen Lillies, Gentians and Irises. Mammals such as Red Squirrel, Wild Boar, Chamois and even Brown Bear can be found here.
Our base for the week will be on the slopes of Mt Canigou, the sacred mountain for Catalonians on both sides of the French-Spanish border. Rising to 2784 metres it dominates the eastern end of the Pyrenees. We’ll stay in a charming village hotel with a family atmosphere, nestled within a sheltered green valley in the foothills of Mt Canigou. All the rooms have large balconies and most come with inspiring mountain views. The area boasts a wide variety of habitats, from Mediterranean garigue and maquis, through holm (Quercus ilex) and downy oak (Q. pubescens), beech woods, calcareous grasslands and alpine screes. The Mediterranean area will host orchids and other typical plants such as Galactites tomentosa, Aphyllanthes monspeliensis, Helianthemum, Salvia and other Labiates. The woods higher up host a different set of orchids such as Epipactis, Limodorum abortivum, Cephalanthera longifolia, Corallorhiza trifida, Platanthera and Orchis militaris. The subalpine areas are natural rock gardens festooned with Saxifrages, Sempervivums, Globularias, Saponaria ocymoides, Dianthus, Gentians, rampions, Aster alpinus and Rhododendron ferrugineu.
The butterflies that we can find are a beautiful mix of interesting and colourful species. Because of the proximity to Spain, we will find many of the species more commonly associated there like Spanish Fritillary and Spanish Festoon, Spanish Gatekeeper and Spanish Marbled White and many spring time butterflies. Others such as Apollo, Clouded Apollo, Southern Scarce Swallowtail, Marsh Fritillary (large reddish supbspecies), Provençal Fritillary, Weaver’s Fritillary, Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary, False Heath Fritillary, Provence Orange Tip, Moroccan Orange Tip, Mountain Small White, Western Dappled White, Mountain Dappled White, Map Butterfly, Duke of Burgundy Fritillary, Cardinal, Southern White Admiral, Chequered Blue, Osiris Blue, Chapman’s Blue, Amanda’s Blue, Provençal Short-tailed Blue, Provence Chalkhill Blue, Green Underside Blue, Turquoise Blue,Geranium Argus, Sooty Copper, Pearly Heath, De Prunner’s Ringlet, Bright-eyed Ringlet, Red-underwing Skipper and Olive Skipper, are just a few of the other butterflies we will see. We will also be searching for the rare and beautiful Violet Copper.
Because of our love of butterflies and commitment to conserving them 10% of profits from the holiday will be donated to Butterfly Conservation.
We hope to welcome you on what promises to be a fantastic tour which combines vital ingredients for making your holiday special and memorable – a bonanza of butterflies, beautiful flowers and stunning landscapes!