The Causses - dry limestone steppes; this is Causse Méjean. The only cultivation is in the shallow troughs (dolines)
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Cévennes September 2012 gallery
- This report
Cévennes June 2013 gallery
- Another brief visit - see species list
The Cévennes form the southern end of the Massif Central in southern France. From here it’s about two hours drive to the Mediterranean coast at Montpellier, and just over two hours drive to Clermont-Ferrand in the northern Massif Central. The Cévennes National Park is the only mid-altitude National Park on the French mainland whose central zone is inhabited year-round. That said, this is the most sparsely populated part of France and the Cévennes are one of the European regions whose biodiversity has increased most over the past thirty or so years. This increase is partly due to several re-introductions carried out in the National Park: Griffon and Black Vultures, Beaver, Red Deer, Roe Deer, and Western Capercaillie. But de-population and species protection have also allowed some species to re-establish themselves naturally: Golden Eagle, European Otter, Black Woodpecker, Tengmalm’s Owl, Egyptian Vulture, and apparently Wolf – see Independent article
. Believed to be young wolves dispersing westwards from the Alps since the 90’s, I would think that even in modern-day France these creatures stand absolutely no chance what-so-ever of not being shot or poisoned. In fact, on our first walk on the Causse Méjean we found, near to a flock of grazing sheep, a huge cage-trap baited with a large lump of red meat…
Among the 2,410 species of fauna catalogued in the Park to date, there are 89 species of mammals (two-thirds of the French total), 208 of birds (of which 135 breed), 17 of reptiles, 18 of amphibians, 24 of fish, 1,824 of insects, 53 of arachnids, and 12 of crustaceans.
The huge variety of flora in the Park (2,300 species have been catalogued since 1820) is the result of the climactic diversity (oceanic, continental and Mediterranean); the chemical composition of its soils (granitic, chalky or schistose); and by the altitudinal range of the protected zone (from 378 to 1,699 m).
The purpose of our trip was to visit for the first time the gorges of the Tarn and Jonte, and to check out the causse
habitat above them – the limestone plateaux of karst and steppes.
Renown for the flora and birds that can be seen here in spring and early summer, we hoped to see some raptor migration in September, and basically do some reconnaissance for a further trip in the spring. In the event, the birding was disappointing, but the insects, butterflies and eventually dragonflies more than made up for the relative lack of birds. That in itself was surprising for September, and even some flower species were still in bloom.
SITES VISITED (September 2012)
Page numbers refer to A Birdwatching Guide to France south of the Loire
- see Reference Sources.
Le Point Sublime
Situated overlooking the Gorge du Tarn, and well sign-posted; access from route D907 (which runs alongside the Tarn river) on a minor road from Les Vignes. Good panoramic viewpoint, although vultures never flew that close when we were there. Unfortunately a major tourist trap, with lots of people there even in September.
This was our first day intro to the causses, and we hadn't managed to source a large scale map so just followed our noses. The area above La Canourgue overlooking the Lot valley was quite good - we took any rough track that looked productive. Our first Saddle-back Bush-crickets and a surprisingly good selection of butterflies and plants for September.
La Maison des Vautours (site ii page 231)
In the Gorge de la Jonte on route D996. With a visitor centre and viewing platform this site also attracts large numbers of people; admission fee charged for exhibition centre/viewing platform, although viewing from the car-park was adequate. On two visits vultures were far too high for photography as the centre is at a fairly low level just above the river.
Causse Méjean (site iii page 233)
The area of causse between the Rivers Tarn and Jonte, directly north of Meyrueis. With all the breeding birds gone, we had hoped to find some of the sedentary birds of the causse and maybe some winter raptors. In the event we saw very little birdlife, but plenty of butterflies and other insects - including our first Moorland Hawkers. Fantastic habitat making a visit in spring a mouth-watering prospect.
Mont Lozère (site iv page 235)
Accessed via route D20 north from Le Pont-de-Montvert. A super site that although disappointing for sedentary/wintering birds on our visit, excelled in most other aspects, not least of which the habitat and scenery. Parking at Col de Finiels (1540m) there are a number of marked trails to choose from. Good for butterflies and insects even in September.
Etang de Barrandon
Accessed from a dirt track off route D35, north-west of Le Pont-de-Montvert. Suffering from odonata withdrawal symptoms, we resolved to find some water, and found this etang on the map. It is in fact well sign-posted and well-known locally as a trout fishery open to the public. There were plenty of people there as the weather was nice, and a high summer or Bank Holiday visit is probably best avoided. However, in the non-fishing zone the reeds have been left and we were rewarded with sight of many hundreds, if not a couple of thousand pairs of both Black and Yellow-winged Darters 'in cop'. An amazing sight, we were definitely lucky with the timing, and eventually we saw nine odonata species at this site.
ACCOMMODATION (September 2012)
We stayed at two campsites, one near Riviere-sur-Tarn, the other at Le Pont-de-Montvert; both were good.
Camping Moulin de la Galinière**
12640 RIVIERE SUR TARN
Camping Moulin de la Galinière
+33 5 65 62 65 60
Camping municipal de Gilliaou**
Camping municipal de Gilliaou
+33 (0)4 66 45 80 10, +33 (0)4 66 45 82 88
A Birdwatching Guide to France south of the Loire.
J. Crozier, Arlequin Press, 2000.
Again we used Jacquie Crozier’s excellent book as our main source of reference. This book went to reprint in 2007 and is now available from both Amazon UK and Amazon France – as is …France north of the Loire.
Crossbill Guides - Cévennes and Grands Causses
, published 2009.
This book arrived after we left for the Cevennes, so I’ve only used it in retrospect.
For various reasons I’m not a big fan of the Crossbill Guides, having bought the Camargue one… On flipping through this one I immediately found a couple of mistakes, the second thing I noticed was no index…
believe it or not! So why buy a copy in the first place? The answer is there’s no alternative that I’m aware of. To be fair, there’s lots of info in here, hopefully most of it is accurate… the real test will be to use it ‘in anger’.
BIRDS - 101 species BUBO Listing
Tachybaptus ruficollis - 1 Barrandon 9/9/12
European Honey Buzzard
Eurasian Griffon Vulture
Eurasian Black Vulture
Aegypius monachus - Camping Moulin, 3-5/9/12. Seen each evening, max. 3. 1 Tarn Valley 8/6/13
Circus pygargus - juvenile Causse Méjean 5/9/12
Accipiter gentilis - 1 female Camping Les Cessenades 4/6/13
Pandion haliaetus - 1 juvenile south over Florac 6/9/12
Falco subbuteo - 1 Mont Lozère 7/9/12
Falco peregrinus - 1 Chateau de Blanquefort 8/6/13
Fulica atra - Barrandon only
Larus michahellis - A single adult flew west along the Tarn river on two consecutive evenings 3-4/9/12. Camping Moulin
Eurasian Collared Dove
European Scops Owl
Otus scops - 1 calling at Camping Moulin each night 9/2012
Strix aluco - 1 calling at Camping Moulin each night 9/2012, also Camping Les Cessenades 6/2013
Caprimulgus europaeus - At Camping Les Cessenades and Camping la Cascade, 6/2013
Apus melba - C6 Le Point Sublime 5/9/12
Merops apiaster - A flock of 18 migrating south over Barrandon 8/9/12
European Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Dendrocopos minor - 1 male Camping Les Cessenades 6/6/13
Lullula arborea - Mt Lozere 6/2013
Eurasian Crag Martin
Common House Martin
Anthus trivialis - Mont Lozère 9/2012
Anthus pratensis - 2 Mont Lozère 7/9/12
Motacilla flava - 4 Mont Lozère 7/9/12
Cinclus cinclus - 1 Camping Moulin 5/9/12. Several on rivers 6/2013
Prunella modularis - 1 singing Causse Méjean 7/6/13
Turdus torquatus - 1 female Mont Lozère 7/9/12
Sylvia cantillans - 2+ Les Roches de Roquesaltes 7/6/13
Phylloscopus trochilus - 3+ Barrandon 8/9/12, some singing
Regulus regulus - 4+ Mont Lozère 7/9/12
Parus palustris - 1 Runes cascade 8/9/12
Eurasian Golden Oriole
Oriolus oriolus - Wooded river valleys 6/2013
Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax - 6+ Le Point Sublime 4/9/12, 2+ Causse Noir 8/6/13
Corvus corax - 1 Col du Rey 5/6/13
Petronia petronia - 3+ near Drigas, Causse Méjean 7/6/13
Carduelis chloris - scarce throughout 6/2013
Pyrrhula pyrrhula - 1 heard Mt Lozère 7/9/12, 1 m. 1 f. Mt Lozère 2/6/13
ODONATA – 15 species
(Calopteryx virgo) - Rivers 6/2013
COMMON EMERALD DAMSELFLY
(Lestes sponsa) – Good numbers Barrandon 8-9/9/12
SCARCE EMERALD DAMSELFLY
(Lestes dryas) – 1 male photographed Barrandon 8/9/12
SMALL EMERALD DAMSELFLY
(Lestes virens) – Several seen Barrandon 8/9/12
SCARCE BLUE-TAILED DAMSELFLY
(Ischnura pumilio) – A single immature female photographed at Barrandon 8/9/12
COMMON BLUE DAMSELFLY
(Enallagma cyathigerum) – A single male photographed at Barrandon 9/9/12, with quite bizarre black markings; an aberrant individual
(Aeshna juncea) – Seen on Mont Lozère, Causse Méjean, and Barrandon in small numbers 9/2012
(Boyeria irene) – Seen at various river locations including Camping de Gilliaou and Le Point Sublime, high above the Tarn 9/2012
(Anax imperator) - 1 male Tarn river 5/6/13
(Onychogomphus forcipatus) – 1 male Camping Moulin 3/9/12
(Libellula quadrimaculata) – 1 probable male Barrandon 8/9/12
(Libellula depressa) - 2 males 6/2013
(Sympetrum danae) – Hundreds, possibly thousands, many ‘in cop’, Barrandon 8-9/9/12
(Sympetrum flaveolum) - Hundreds, possibly thousands, many ‘in cop’, Barrandon 8-9/9/12
(Sympetrum striolatum) – 2 males on bowl-shaped animal drinking trough, Causse Méjean 5/9/12
BUTTERFLIES - 48 species
RED UNDERWING SKIPPER
BERGER'S CLOUDED YELLOW
(?)SOUTHERN SMALL WHITE
(Pieris mannii) - Mont Lozère 9/2012
(Lycaena virgaureae) - Mont Lozère 9/2012
(Polyommatus escheri) - several near Vebron
SOUTHERN WHITE ADMIRAL
QUEEN OF SPAIN FRITILLARY
(Argynnis niobe) – 1 female Mont Lozère 9/2012
SMALL PEARL-BORDERED FRITILLARY
GREAT BANDED GRAYLING
(Hipparchia alcyone) – The causses, possibly H. fagi also, 9/2012
OTHER INSECTS/OTHER FAUNA
Large Marsh Grasshopper
(Stethophyma grossum) – Barrandon 9/2012
Various moth sp.
Including Zygaenidae fausta, a burnet species
(Araneus quadratus) - Mont Lozère
(Bombina variegata) – Barrandon 9/2012
Iberian Water Frog
European Green Lizard
Common Wall Lizard
Pipistrelle bat sp.
ORCHIDS - 25 species (June 2013)
Lady's Slipper Orchid
Bird's Nest Orchid
Lesser Butterfly Orchid
Greater Butterfly Orchid
Heath Spotted Orchid
Common Spotted Orchid
Early Purple Orchid
(Ophrys aymoninii) - Endemic
(Ophrys aveyronensis) - Endemic
Early Spider Orchid
- Some of the species photographed in the Cevennes, in alphabetical order
(Aster alpinus subsp. cebennis)
(Pinguicula longifolia ssp caussensis)
(Gentiana clusii subsp. cevennensis)
Cevennes Pasque Flower
(Pulsatilla rubra subsp. rubra)
Montpellier Milk Vetch
Mountain Kidney Vetch
(Armeria maritima subsp alpina)
Sage-leaved Rock Rose
Southern Wild Tulip
(Tulipa sylvestris ssp. australis)