La Brenne is said to be one of France’s best kept secrets, this is probably due to the size of the area and its ability to remain hidden from the casual tourist. There are many private and restricted sections within the park but a good map and guide will open up a wealth of opportunities. It is an area of rich flora and fauna delicately preserved by its ‘National Park’ status. For Dee and I a visit here is always a 'must do' no matter what the weather!
Since gaining its ‘National Park’ status in 1989 the area is now established as an exceptional location for bird life with over 260 species recorded of which 150 stay to breed. Its not only birdlife that flourishes as the area is home to an abundant array of butterflies and dragonflies. The plant-life is also richly diverse ranging from orchids to vast reed beds to heathland and ancient oaks. The woodlands and heaths provide natural shelter for wild boer, roe and red deer.
The hour or so's drive through the back roads to La Brenne offered several good stop off points and at one such point a flooded area of field offered Greenshank, Redshank and White Wagtail. A short drive further and to our delight we located a colony of Bee-eater, with around 6 birds in residence. Before we reached our first bird hide at Etang (lake) Purais we'd further recorded; Stonechat, Whinchat, Red-backed Shrike, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier and Honey Buzzard.
Etang Purais was a shock to the system. This particular lake usually houses a Whiskered Tern population of anything between 100 and 400 pairs, in fact one of the largest in France. Dee and I settled into the hide and upon opening the slats were shocked to find the lake completely dry! Having now investigated it seems that the lake is prone to occasional periods of extreme drought and it would appear that this year is one of those occurrences. Thankfully our main stop at Reserve Naturelle de Cherine had no such problems.
The hide visited at Etang de la Sous had the usual large nesting population of Black-headed Gulls and Dee and I arrived just in time to see a ♀Marsh Harrier attack the flock. After things had settled down we took stock recording of note: Black-necked Grebe, Little Egret, Black Tern, Whiskered Tern, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Cattle Egret, Purple Heron and Honey Buzzard.
At Etang des Essarts our timing was once again impeccable as a Great Egret was out in the open and towards the back of the lake a Feruginous Duck was seen amongst the Tufted population. Our final bird count of the day also included Pochard, Eurasian Teal, Wigeon, Spotted flycatcher and Woodlark. With the sun now coming through a number of Butterflies were on the wing and these included Wall, Silver-Washed Fritillary, Short-Tailed Blue and Grizzled Skipper. Our final bird of the day was a Spotted Crake, sadly only heard but brought to an end another excellent few days in France. More images of our visit can be found on my Flickr site.