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The French Pyrenees, 29th June to 3rd July 2007

Cirque d'Estaube
Cirque d'Estaube

Location of Gedre

Pyrenees June/July 2008 gallery

Gedre, altitude 1000metres, lies 7 kms north of Gavarnie, famous for the spectacular cirque at the head of the valley. All of this area is within the Parc National des Pyrenees. The village offers a stunning mountain environment : the Estaubé and Troumouse cirques, the Bué, Ossoue and Heas valleys, and the Saugué plateau, an extraordinary viewpoint overlooking the Gavarnie cirque. Within an hour’s drive is the Snowfinch hotspot Col du Tourmalet, and to the west the Pont d’Espagne, accessed by cable car

We spent five days here, walking the three valleys above looking for butterflies and orchids in particular, and driving to the Col du Tormalet and Pont d’Espagne when the weather wasn’t suitable for all-day walking. Unfortunately the early summer had been very wet and windy here also, and during our visit there was often a fairly strong wind, although little rain. Consequently it was a poor breeding year for butterflies; most were whizzing around in search of food-plants, in poor condition and difficult to observe or identify without a net, which I rarely use. Photography was particularly difficult. Some species photographed are in Photo Galleries section.

The only real interest at the Col du Tourmalet are the Snow Finches, easy at this time of year around the base of the pylons and sometimes in the carpark, although they are fairly flighty and easily flushed.
At the Pont d’Espagne there is a cable car then chairlift to the plateau, from where one can walk to the Lac de Gaube and further on up the valley, returning via a footpath through pine woods directly from the lake. For those with an aversion to chairlifts, there is a path underneath the chairlift, along the clearing. This area should give some different species to Gedre, but again we had strong winds and generally poor weather for observing butterflies.
The three local valleys provided plenty of orchids, limited butterfly viewing and at least no rain.
The Heas Valley leads to two good sites, the Lac des Gloriettes and onwards on foot to the Cirque d’Estaube, and the more sombre Cirque de Troumouse to the west at the end of the road [toll] - ample parking at Gloriettes and Troumouse.
The Ossoue Valley is accessed along the Gavarnie Valley, the road off right just before entering Gavarnie village from Gedre. Limited parking at the barrage at the head of the valley.
The Bue Valley is 3kms south of Gedre village, south of the campsite at Saussa; bear right through Ayrues hamlet continuing to very limited parking at the end of the road, room for about six cars, then take the signed footpath.
I would recommend using the Gedre/Gavarnie large-scale footpath map free from both tourist offices.
Location details for selected species are under ’Species Recorded’


Bellevue Camping
65120 GEDRE
Tel. 0562 924840


A Birdwatching Guide to France South of the Loire. J. Crozier, Arlequin Press, 2000.

Official Gedre/Gavarnie website

IGN Carte de Promenade no. 70 Pau, Bagneres-de-Luchon


Birds - 57 species recorded, including;

BLACK KITE - milvus migrans
RED KITE - milvus milvus
LAMMERGEIER - gypaetus barbatus - 1 adult plucking prey above campsite, Gedre, 1 adult dropping and eating bones Bue Valley; singles often in flight throughout
GRIFFON VULTURE - gyps fulvus - Frequent small flocks
GOSHAWK - accipiter gentilis - A female over the campsite on two mornings, 1 female Bue Valley
GOLDEN EAGLE - aquilachrysaetos - 1 sub-ad/2nd year Bue Valley
SHORT-TOED EAGLE - circaetus gallicus - 1 Col de Tourmalet
TAWNY OWL - strix aluco - 1 campsite
BLACK WOODPECKER - dryocopus martius - Bue Valley
WOODLARK - lullula arborea
CRAG MARTIN - ptyonoprogne rupestris
WATER PIPIT - anthus spinoletta
DIPPER - cinclus cinclus - 2 pairs plus nesting Gloriettes
ROCK THRUSH - monticola saxatilis - 2 pairs Saugue plateau, above campsite, 1 pair Gavarnie, c2 pairs Ossoue Valley
CRESTED TIT - parus cristatus - c3 Bue Valley
RED-BACKED SHRIKE - lanius collurio - c4 pairs between Gedre and Gavarnie
ALPINE CHOUGH - pyrrhocorax graculus
CHOUGH - pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax - 3 Gavarnie
RAVEN - covus corax - 2 Bue Valley
SNOW FINCH - montifringilla nivalis - c6 Col du Tourmalet
CIRL BUNTING - emberiza cirlus
ROCK BUNTING - emberiza cia - 1 pair Bue Valley

Butterflies - 42 species recorded

SWALLOWTAIL - papilio machaon
APOLLO - parnassius apollo - Occasional
CLOUDED APOLLO - p. mnemosyne - Only Bue Valley
BLACK-VEINED WHITE - aporia crataegi
LARGE WHITE - pieris brassicae
SMALL WHITE - artogeia rapae
ORANGE TIP - anthocharis cardamines
CLOUDED YELLOW - colias crocea
BRIMSTONE - gonepteryx rhamni
PURPLE-EDGED COPPER - paleochrysophanus hippothoe - 1 Gloriettes
SOOTY COPPER - heodes tityrus - 1 Bue Valley
LITTLE BLUE - cupido minimus - Small numbers on mud pools
LARGE BLUE - maculinea arion - 1 Bue Valley
SILVER-STUDDED BLUE - plebejus argus - Bue and Ossoue Valleys
HOLLY BLUE - celastrina argiolus - Campsite
MAZARINE BLUE - cyaniris semiargus - Fairly common
ESCHER’S BLUE - agrodiaetus escheri - Above Pont d’Espagne
COMMON BLUE - polymmatus icarus - Bue and Heas Valleys, few.
ADONIS BLUE - lysandra bellargus - Bue Valley
DUKE OF BURGUNDY - hamearis lucina - 1 Heas Valley
WHITE ADMIRAL - ladoga camilla
PAINTED LADY - cynthia cardui
SMALL TORTOISESHELL - aglais urticae
MARBLED FRITILLARY - brenthis daphne - Bue Valley
PEARL-BORDERED FRITILLARY - clossiana euphrosyne - Bue Valley
FALSE HEATH FRITILLARY - melitaea diamina - Pont d’Espagne
HEATH FRITILLARY - mellicta athalia - Fairly common
MEADOW FRITILLARY - m. parthenoides - Bue Valley
MARBLED WHITE - melanargia galathia MEADOW BROWN - maniola jurtina
MOUNTAIN RINGLET - erebia epiphron - Bue Valley
PIEDMONT RINGLET - e. meolans - Fairly common, e.g. Bue Valley
SMALL HEATH - coenonympha pamphilus
WALL BROWN - lasiommata megera
LARGE WALL BROWN - l. maera - Bue Valley
GRIZZLED SKIPPER - pyrgus malvae - 1 Ossoue Valley
OBERTHUR’S GRIZZLED SKIPPER - p. armorricanus - Common on mud pools throughout
CINQUEFOIL SKIPPER - p. cirsii - 1 Bue Valley, 1 Gloriettes
MALLOW SKIPPER - carcharodus alceae - 1 Gloriettes
DINGY SKIPPER - erynnis tages - Pont d’Espagne
SMALL SKIPPER - thymelicus flavus
LARGE SKIPPER - ochlodes venatus

Orchids - 7 species recorded

PYRAMIDAL ORCHID - anacamptis pyramidalis - Campsite, Saugue plateau
BROAD-LEAVED MARSH ORCHID - dactylorhiza majalis - Frequent in damp areas, e.g. below Gloriettes barrage
HEATH SPOTTED ORCHID - dactylorhiza maculata - Gloriettes/Cirque d’Estaube
FRAGRANT ORCHID - gymnadenia conopsea - Common throughout
VANILLA ORCHID - nigritella nigra - Above Gloriettes barrage, also Bue Valley and Pont d’Espagne in small groups
BURNT ORCHID - orchis ustulata - Only at Gloriettes, two plants
GREATER BUTTERFLY ORCHID - platanthera chlorantha - Fairly common throughout

Flower species of interest - not an exhaustive list

WELSH POPPY - meconopsis cambrica - Bue Valley
WHITE STONECROP - sedum album - Ossoue Valley
ORPINE - sedum telephium - Cirque de Gavarnie
MOUNTAIN HOUSELEEK - sempervivum montanum - Ossoue Valley
MUSKY SAXIFRAGE - saxifraga moschata - Gloriettes
PYRENEAN SAXIFRAGE - saxifraga longifolia - Gloriettes
ASHY CRANESBILL - geranium cinereum
YELLOW WOOD VIOLET - viola biflora - Troumouse
SPRING GENTIAN - gentiana verna - Fairly common throughout
TRUMPET GENTIAN - gentiana sp. - Probably the Pyrenean endemic, Troumouse, etc
CLUSTERED BELLFLOWER - campanula glometata - Bue Valley
GIANT BELLFLOWER - campanula latifolia - Above campsite
ROUND-HEADED RAMPION - phyteuma nigrum - Gloriettes
ARNICA - arnica montana - Gloriettes
ALPINE ASTER - aster alpinus - Gloriettes
ST BRUNO’S LILY - paradisea liliastrum - Gloriettes