I spent the end of June travelling through France with the intention of finding and photographing some of the European Odonata (dragonfly and damselfly species) which aren't found in Britain - as well as taking the opportunity to see what other interesting wildlife I could find.
After initially spending a few days in the Champagne region, where it was unfortunately as overcast as the weather the UK has been experiencing for most of the summer so far this year, I headed south through the Bourgogne and Auvergne regions, briefly visiting La Crau and the eastern edge of the Camargue before heading back north. Travelling all the way to the Mediterranean increased the number of species that I was able to find because some prefer the warmer climates of the south, but more importantly it gave me a much better chance of finding the sunny weather that dragonflies require before they are active!
By the time I returned to the UK I had seen 58 different species of dragonfly and damselfly, and had photographed 50 of these - not a bad total, especially when you consider that only just over 50 species have ever been recorded in Britain and Ireland. The geographic position of the British isles, and the fact that they have long been separated from mainland Europe, means that many species that are widespread on the continent do not usually occur here, and this is true of all types of wildlife. It is perhaps most noticeable if you have an interest in bird. It is rarely difficult to find at least some bird species that are rare in the UK on even the shortest stay somewhere on the continent, you don't even need to make a special effort to search for them - although it helps if you want to see a large variety, or are keen to see specific species.
A selection of some of the highlights of the trip (including birds and other wildlife) is shown below:
Common Winter Damselfly.
Crescent Bluet/Irish Damselfly.
Small Red-eye/Small Red-eyed Damselfly.
This one is in the process of cleaning its wings by moving the abdomen up and down between the wings, and rubbing it against them.
Broad Scarlet/Scarlet Darter.
A female laying her eggs.
I have no idea why it was carrying the leaf - but it flew off with it!
Large groups of these were coming down to damp areas at the edge of the Ardeche to take in moisture, and perhaps salts.