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Butterflies of the Cevennes

Tour Code: FRA02

An 8-day holiday in search of the wealth of butterflies, and other natural history, to be found in the south-eastern corner of the Massif Central.

8 days from £1495(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1375 SRS: £175


The Cévennes is a spectacular area on the edge of the Massif Central containing a wide variety of habitats, among them the granitic peak of Mont Lozère, vast beech and chestnut forests, and the limestone plateau of the Causses bisected by dramatic gorges (including the Gorges du Tarn). Based for the week in a delightful hotel in the pretty village of Cocurès, we will explore these habitats, many of them protected within the Cévennes National Park, in search of a wealth of butterflies, as well as enjoying the area’s rich flora and many birds. This is one of the finest regions of France for the butterfly enthusiast, the delicious meals served at our hotel and our renowned picnic lunches ensuring that no one lacks for energy!

  • 70-80 butterfly species possible during a week-long stay
  • Blues such as Escher’s, Chapman’s & Mountain Alcon
  • The highly localised Esper’s Marbled White on Causse Méjean
  • Purple-shot Copper & Scarce Swallowtail plus variety of fritillaries & skippers
  • Birds of prey in abundance
  • 25-30 orchid species among a profusion of wild flowers
  • Classic French cuisine in an award-winning village hotel
  • Expert naturalist guide with superb local knowledge

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

A pleasant and traditional village hotel, with private facilities, serving fine local food.

Small Apollo (Tony Daniels)

Small Apollo (Tony Daniels)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Montpellier and drive to Cocurès

Day 2/7 Excursions on foot in search of butterflies and other natural history of Cevennes

Day 8 Fly London

The Cévennes is a spectacular mountainous area on the south-eastern edge of the Massif Central. Delightfully unspoilt, its wonderful variety of scenery and habitats provide a special combination for the naturalist and walker. From our base for this holiday — a small and friendly hotel in the attractive little village of Cocurès, close to Florac, the administrative centre of the Cévennes National Park — we will make full use of the region’s excellent trails as we search for the wealth of natural history and, in particular on this holiday, the wealth of butterflies to be found here. Fuelled by the delicious meals served at our hotel, and our famous French picnic lunches, we (as always!) intend to enjoy ourselves.

The high granite peaks of Mont Lozère (1,699 metres) and Mont Aigoual (1,567 metres) contrast with the surrounding limestone and schist areas, all providing a rich diversity of habitat within a relatively small area. Pine and deciduous forests, upland pasture, marshy wetlands, dry limestone plateaux with grassland and rocks, flower-filled meadows, and deep gorges with cliffs and fast-flowing rivers, will all be explored during our stay. Further diversity, created by the variety of climate, aspect, rainfall, soil and altitude, encourages an extremely rich flora, especially of orchids, which attracts an abundance of insects. In particular, there is a very good variety of butterflies, and up to 70 or 80 species are possible during our week’s stay.

In the heart of the region lies the Corniche des Cévennes, a 50-kilometre ridge with a road along it that gives wide views over the national park and the Causses. On our walks here we should find a wealth of butterfly species, among them Purple-shot Copper, Scarce and Common Swallowtails, Berger’s Clouded Yellow, Large Wall Brown, numerous fritillaries, and Blues such as Escher’s, Adonis and Baton. We may also find Green-winged, Burnt-tip, Elder-flowered, Lady, Military, Monkey and Frog Orchids, and birds such as Golden, Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Red Kite, Woodlark and Tree Pipit.

Just to the west of Florac, the River Tarn has carved a deep and spectacular gorge through the limestone, the cliffs being a haven for Eagle Owl, Peregrine, Chough, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin and Blue Rock Thrush. Butterflies are particularly numerous here, with Cleopatra, Blue-spot, Sloe, Ilex and Green Hairstreaks, Provençal, Twin-spot and Marbled Fritillaries, and Chequered and Osiris Blue all likely, while on the nearby Causse Méjean we’ll look for the extremely localised Esper’s Marbled White. These limestone rocks are also home to many interesting plants, among them Rock Soapwort, St. Bernard’s Lily, the endemic Cévennes Saxifrage and Malling Toadflax, and a colony of Lady’s Slipper Orchid.

On the underlying granite of Mont Lozère we find a good acid flora, including the striking yellow of Piorno Broom, abundant blue Mountain Pansy, Alpine Clover and Spring Pasque Flower. The damp flushes beneath the summit are excellent for butterflies, with Large Tortoiseshell, Camberwell Beauty, Purple-edged and Sooty Coppers, Chestnut Heath, and Pearl-bordered, High Brown and Weaver’s Fritillaries often seen. This area is also favoured by birds of prey, and these may include Montagu’s and Hen Harrier, Merlin and Goshawk, with Rock Bunting, Water Pipit, Black Redstart, Crossbill and Crested Tit also present.

We will visit the extensive limestone plateaux, with the Causse Noir, a superb patchwork of pine woods, grasslands and small arable fields, a good example. Butterflies are numerous here with Rock, Woodland and Great-banded Graylings, Black-veined White, White and Southern White Admirals, fritillaries, skippers and scarce Blues such as Chapman’s and Mountain Alcon, just some of the species expected! Colourful plants, too, are everywhere, with Aphyllanthes, Globularia, orchids, rockroses, and Yellow, Blue and White Flax creating a wonderful tapestry. Overlooking the Gorge de la Jonte, this is also a good place to see magnificent Griffon Vultures at close quarters as they glide along the cliff-top — evidence of a highly successful re-introduction programme in the early 1990s.

Finally, we’ll drive to the pastures at the top of the forested Mont Aigoual. Here we should find such alpine butterflies as Mountain, Bright-eyed, Piedmont and Ottoman Brassy Ringlet, as well as such other species as Dusky Heath and Niobe, High Brown and Glanville Fritillaries in the vicinity. Sheets of yellow tulips, Large Yellow Gentian, Aconite-leaved Buttercup and Martagon Lily all provide botanical interest, while Red-backed and Great Grey Shrikes, Rock and Ortolan Buntings are among the avian highlights. Like all the sites in the Cévennes, this isn’t a place where the naturalist may easily become bored!

Niobe Fritillary (Tony Daniels)Naturetrek clients on Causse Noir (Peter Dunn)Scarce Swallowtail (Peter Dunn)Przewalski Horses (Peter Dunn)Naturetrek group (Peter Dunn)Large Ringlet (Tony Daniels)Small Apollo feeding (Tony Daniels)Small Apollo (Tony Daniels)Grisons Fritillary (Tony Daniels)Dark-green Fritillary  (Tony Daniels)Clouded Apollo (Tony Daniels)Red-underwing Skipper (Tony Daniels)Scarce Copper (Tony Daniels)Bue-spot Hairstreak (Tony Daniels)Great Sooty Satyr (Tony Daniels)Spotted Fritillary (Tony Daniels)Marbled White (Tony Daniels)Cevennes village (Peter Dunn)Cevennes village (Peter Dunn)
Mr & Mrs H.
Suffolk
Our group leader this time was excellent. An expert in his field, yet having patience with beginners. Altogether an extremely enjoyable trip and superbly led.
Mrs M.
Devon
This was my first Naturetrek holiday and it fulfilled and surpassed my expectations. The arrangements were smooth and efficient, the hotel was superb, the butterflies were wonderful and even the weather was fabulous! Mark Galliott was an excellent leader; a mine of information and expertise. Nothing was too much trouble and he remained focused throughout, whether netting and identifying butterflies, keeping to time schedules, driving the minibus or organising the picnic lunches. I particularly appreciated the group meetings before dinner to go over the check list, ask questions and confirm sightings. I learned a great deal.
L.V.
Suffolk
Brilliant.
M.O.
Devon
Trip leader made this whole trip very interesting.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Wed 14th June 2017 - Wed 21st June 2017

FULL

£1495

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are limited. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1375 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: France

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Andy Tucker
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01962 733051

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Tour Reviews

Our group leader this time was excellent. An expert in his field, yet having patience with beginners. Altogether an extremely enjoyable trip and superbly led.
Mr & Mrs H., Suffolk