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The Cévennes, France, September 2012/June 2013

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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.

Causse Sauveterre

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**
Camping Moulin de la Galinière
+33 5 65 62 65 60

Camping municipal de Gilliaou**
Le Pont-de-Montvert
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

Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa
Common Quail Coturnix coturnix

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis - 1 Barrandon 9/9/12

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

European Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Red Kite Milvus milvus
Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus
Eurasian Black Vulture Aegypius monachus - Camping Moulin, 3-5/9/12. Seen each evening, max. 3. 1 Tarn Valley 8/6/13
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus - juvenile Causse Méjean 5/9/12
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis - 1 female Camping Les Cessenades 4/6/13
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
Osprey Pandion haliaetus - 1 juvenile south over Florac 6/9/12
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo - 1 Mont Lozère 7/9/12
Peregrine Falco peregrinus - 1 Chateau de Blanquefort 8/6/13

Eurasian Coot Fulica atra - Barrandon only

Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis - A single adult flew west along the Tarn river on two consecutive evenings 3-4/9/12. Camping Moulin

Common Woodpigeon Columba palumbus
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto

Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus
European Scops Owl Otus scops - 1 calling at Camping Moulin each night 9/2012
Tawny Owl Strix aluco - 1 calling at Camping Moulin each night 9/2012, also Camping Les Cessenades 6/2013
European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus - At Camping Les Cessenades and Camping la Cascade, 6/2013

Common Swift Apus apus
Alpine Swift Apus melba - C6 Le Point Sublime 5/9/12

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster - A flock of 18 migrating south over Barrandon 8/9/12
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops
European Green Woodpecker Picus viridis
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor - 1 male Camping Les Cessenades 6/6/13

Woodlark Lullula arborea - Mt Lozere 6/2013
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis

Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Common House Martin Delichon urbicum

Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis - Mont Lozère 9/2012
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis - 2 Mont Lozère 7/9/12
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava - 4 Mont Lozère 7/9/12
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail Motacilla alba

White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus - 1 Camping Moulin 5/9/12. Several on rivers 6/2013
Dunnock Prunella modularis - 1 singing Causse Méjean 7/6/13
Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
European Robin Erithacus rubecula
Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
Common Stonechat Saxicola torquatus
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus - 1 female Mont Lozère 7/9/12
Common Blackbird Turdus merula
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus

Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Garden Warbler Sylvia borin
Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans - 2+ Les Roches de Roquesaltes 7/6/13
Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus - 3+ Barrandon 8/9/12, some singing
Goldcrest Regulus regulus - 4+ Mont Lozère 7/9/12
Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla

Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
Marsh Tit Parus palustris - 1 Runes cascade 8/9/12
Crested Tit Parus cristatus
Coal Tit Parus ater
Blue Tit Parus caeruleus
Great Tit Parus major
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea
Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla

Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus - Wooded river valleys 6/2013

Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio

Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
Common Magpie Pica pica
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax - 6+ Le Point Sublime 4/9/12, 2+ Causse Noir 8/6/13
Western Jackdaw Corvus monedula
Carrion Crow Corvus corone
Common Raven Corvus corax - 1 Col du Rey 5/6/13
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris

House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia - 3+ near Drigas, Causse Méjean 7/6/13
Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
European Serin Serinus serinus
European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris - scarce throughout 6/2013
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina
Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra
Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula - 1 heard Mt Lozère 7/9/12, 1 m. 1 f. Mt Lozère 2/6/13
Yellowhammer Emberiza citronella
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus

ODONATA – 15 species

BEAUTIFUL DEMOISELLE (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

MOORLAND HAWKER (Aeshna juncea) – Seen on Mont Lozère, Causse Méjean, and Barrandon in small numbers 9/2012
DUSK HAWKER (Boyeria irene) – Seen at various river locations including Camping de Gilliaou and Le Point Sublime, high above the Tarn 9/2012
EMPEROR DRAGONFLY (Anax imperator) - 1 male Tarn river 5/6/13

GREEN-EYED HOOKTAIL (Onychogomphus forcipatus) – 1 male Camping Moulin 3/9/12

FOUR-SPOTTED CHASER (Libellula quadrimaculata) – 1 probable male Barrandon 8/9/12
BROAD-BODIED CHASER (Libellula depressa) - 2 males 6/2013

BLACK DARTER (Sympetrum danae) – Hundreds, possibly thousands, many ‘in cop’, Barrandon 8-9/9/12
YELLOW-WINGED DARTER (Sympetrum flaveolum) - Hundreds, possibly thousands, many ‘in cop’, Barrandon 8-9/9/12
COMMON DARTER (Sympetrum striolatum) – 2 males on bowl-shaped animal drinking trough, Causse Méjean 5/9/12

BUTTERFLIES - 48 species

RED UNDERWING SKIPPER (Spialia sertorius)
DINGY SKIPPER (Erynnis tages)
GRIZZLED SKIPPER (Pyrgus malvae)

SWALLOWTAIL (Papilio machaon)
SCARCE SWALLOWTAIL (Iphiclides podalirius)

CLEOPATRA (Gonepteryx cleopatra)
BRIMSTONE (Gonepteryx rhamni)
BERGER'S CLOUDED YELLOW (Colias alfacariensis)
BLACK-VEINED WHITE (Aporia crataegi)
LARGE WHITE (Pieris brassicae)
(?)SOUTHERN SMALL WHITE (Pieris mannii) - Mont Lozère 9/2012
SMALL WHITE (Pieris rapae)
ORANGE TIP (Anthocharis cardamines)
WOOD WHITE (Leptidea sinapis)

GREEN HAIRSTREAK (Callophrys rubi)
SCARCE COPPER (Lycaena virgaureae) - Mont Lozère 9/2012
SMALL COPPER (Lycaena phlaeas)
SOOTY COPPER (Lycaena tityrus)

LITTLE BLUE (Cupido minimus)
GREEN-UNDERSIDE BLUE (Glaucopsyche alexis)
COMMON BLUE (Polyommatus icarus)
ESCHER'S BLUE (Polyommatus escheri) - several near Vebron
ADONIS BLUE (Lysandra bellargus)
SILVER-STUDDED BLUE (Plebejus argus)

SOUTHERN WHITE ADMIRAL (Limenitis reducta)
COMMA (Polygonia c-album)
PAINTED LADY (Vanessa cardui)
RED ADMIRAL (Vanessa atalanta)
PEACOCK (Inachis io)

NIOBE FRITILLARY (Argynnis niobe) – 1 female Mont Lozère 9/2012
HEATH FRITILLARY (Melitaea athalia)
MARSH FRITILLARY (Euphydryas aurinia)

SPECKLED WOOD (Pararge aegeria)
WALL BROWN (Lasiommata megera)
PIEDMONT RINGLET (Erebia meolans)
ROCK GRAYLING (Hipparchia alcyone) – The causses, possibly H. fagi also, 9/2012
GATEKEEPER (Pyronia tithonus)
MEADOW BROWN (Maniola jurtina)
SMALL HEATH (Coenonympha pamphilus)


Large Marsh Grasshopper (Stethophyma grossum) – Barrandon 9/2012
Grasshopper sp. (Oedipoda germanica)
Grasshopper sp. (Oedipoda caerulans)
Bush-cricket sp. (?Platycleis affinis)
Saddle-backed Bush-cricket (Ephippiger ephippiger)

Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa)

Hummingbird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)
Various moth sp. Including Zygaenidae fausta, a burnet species

Hornet (Vespa crabro)

Spider sp. (Araneus quadratus) - Mont Lozère

Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra)
Natterjack (Bufo calamita)
Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina variegata) – Barrandon 9/2012
Common Frog (Rana temporaria)
Agile frog (Rana dalmatina)
Iberian Water Frog (rana perezi)
European Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis)
Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis)
Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)
Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis)
Viperine snake (Natrix maura)

Pipistrelle bat sp. (Pipistrellus sp.)
Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus)
Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)
Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus)
Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

ORCHIDS - 25 species (June 2013)

Aveyron orchid (Ophrys aveyronensis)
Aymonin's Orchid (Ophrys aymoninii)
Lady's Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium calceolus)
Cevennes Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla rubra subsp. rubra)

Lady's Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium calceolus)

White Helleborine (Cephalanthera damasonium)
Narrow-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia)
Violet Limodore (Limodorum abortivum)

Bird's Nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis)

Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata)

Lesser Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera bifolia)
Greater Butterfly Orchid (Plantanthera chlorantha)

Frog Orchid (Coeloglossum viride)

Elder-flowered Orchid (Dactylorhiza sambucina)
Heath Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata)
Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuschii)

Green-winged Orchid (Orchis morio)
Burnt Orchid (Orchis ustulata)
Monkey Orchid (Orchis simia)
Military Orchid (Orchis militaris)
Lady Orchid (Orchis purpurea)
Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula)
Man Orchid (Orchis anthropophora)

Lizard orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum)

Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)

Aymonin's Orchid (Ophrys aymoninii) - Endemic
Aveyron orchid (Ophrys aveyronensis) - Endemic
Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys scolopax)
Early Spider Orchid (Ophrys sphegodes)

WILDFLOWERS - Some of the species photographed in the Cevennes, in alphabetical order

Alpine Aster (Aster alpinus subsp. cebennis)
Cevennes Butterwort (Pinguicula longifolia ssp caussensis)
Cevennes Gentian (Gentiana clusii subsp. cevennensis)
Cevennes Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla rubra subsp. rubra)
Field Cow-wheat (Melampyrum arvense)
Field Pansy (Viola arvensis)
Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis)
Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus)
Greater Broomrape (Orobanche rapum-genistae)
Horseshoe vetch (Hippocrepis comosa)
Italian Catchfly (Silene italica)
Maidenhair Fern (Aleutian maidenhair)
Montpellier Milk Vetch (Astragalus monspessulanus)
Mountain Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis montana)
Mountain Thrift (Armeria maritima subsp alpina)
Nottingham Catchfly (Silene nutans)
Pale Flax (Linum bienne)
Pheasant's Eye (Narcissus poeticus)
Prostrate Speedwell (Veronica prostrata)
Rock Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis)
Sage-leaved Rock Rose (Cistus salviifolius)
Scorpion Vetch (Coronilla emerus)
Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)
Southern Wild Tulip (Tulipa sylvestris ssp. australis)
Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum)
Teesdale Violet (Viola rupestris)
Thick-leaved Stonecrop (Sedum dasyphyllum)
Wall Pennywort (Umbilicus rupestris)
Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor)