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Dragonflies of La Brenne & Vienne

Tour Code: FRA21

An 8-day holiday in search of dragonflies, butterflies, birds and plants in two lesser-known areas of France, both outstandingly rich in natural history.

8 days from £1495(flights not included) Land Only Price: £1375 SRS: £150

La Brenne and Vienne are situated in central France. La Brenne is known locally as ‘The Land of a Thousand Lakes’, and both areas harbour a rich tapestry of habitats ideal for dragonflies and other wildlife including marshes, marginal land, deciduous woods, dry heathland and farmland. This is an ideal holiday for the dragonfly enthusiast as well as those with additional interest in butterflies, wild flowers and birds. Using two comfortable hotels as bases we’ll have short daily travel times to key sites, and allow plenty of time to enjoy this unhurried area of France, good food, photography and a wealth of interesting species.

  • Travel by train on a flight-free holiday
  • Over 2,000 lakes in La Brenne – rich in dragonflies, butterflies & bird life
  • Up to 20 species of dragonfly at a single ‘étang’ in June!
  • Many non-British species such as Dainty Bluet & Orange Featherleg
  • Hawkers, skimmers, clubtails & darters in abundance
  • 36 species of orchid including Brenne, Fragrant & Greater Butterfly
  • Breeding birds & bird song of Nightingales, Golden Orioles & warblers
  • Based in a quiet, picturesque corner of France
  • Led by expert naturalist guides


All included in the price., except en route to/from Poitiers.


Small, comfortable hotels with en suite facilities.

Small Pincertail  (Dave Smallshire)

Small Pincertail (Dave Smallshire)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Eurostar to Poitiers

Day 2/3 Moulismes

Day 4 Pinail/La Brenne

Day5/7 La Brenne

Day 8 Eurostar to London

La Brenne and Vienne are situated in an area of central France, south of the Loire, and the capital of the Vienne département is Poitiers, which lies 80 kilometres to the west of La Brenne. The latter is known locally as ‘The Land of a Thousand Lakes’ because of the numerous pools, known locally as ‘Etangs’, which dot its landscapes. Mostly man-made, these have been managed over the centuries for fishing and a rich tapestry of habitats has developed including marshes, deciduous woods, dry heathland and farmland.

In the quiet, gently rolling mixed farmland of Vienne there are many small étangs, much marginal land, unimproved meadows and pasture, and extensive woodland. The older, more established étangs are prime habitat for dragonflies and damselflies of which numerous species can be found within a few kilometres of our first base at Moulismes. Indeed, up to 20 species can be seen at a single étang in June including such non-British species as Orange Featherleg, Dainty Bluet, Blue-eye, Common Winter Damsel, Western Willow Spreadwing, Orange-spotted Emerald, White-tailed Skimmer, Scarlet Darter, Yellow and Western Clubtails and Small Pincertail. Even for a non-specialist, the variety of form and colour provided by these falcons of the insect world is an absorbing diversion from the soporific warmth of a summer afternoon in central France.

Our search for dragonflies will naturally lead us to find interesting butterflies, orchids and birds. Around Moulismes, butterflies such as Red-underwing and Mallow Skippers, Scarce Swallowtail, Black-veined White, Southern White Admiral, Map Butterfly, Marbled, Weaver’s, Knapweed, Spotted, Heath and Meadow Fritillaries, Great Banded Grayling, Black Hairstreak, Sooty Copper and Short-tailed Provencal and Mazarine Blues may all be seen. Orchids in the area include Pyramidal, Bee and Lizard, each adding their delicate colours to enrich the summer flora and, not to be outdone, the avian world is represented by arguably the most beautiful of all European birds — the Bee-eater, which can be observed in all its gorgeous splendour at a colony close to Moulismes.

Pinail reserve, lying 20 kilometres northeast of Poitiers, is a peat-bog where old millstone quarries have left more than 3,000 small, deep, water-filled holes scattered among the heathland. Many dragonflies have been recorded here, but three rare species we will be looking for in particular are Robust Spreadwing, and Lilypad and Yellow-spotted Whitefaces.

With over 2,000 lakes, the 160,000-hectare Regional Nature Park of La Brenne is famed for its wetland birds, but what is less well known is that it is also a magnificent place for dragonflies and butterflies. Among the many dragonflies to be seen in La Brenne we should be able to add Variable Bluet, Small Bluetail, Migrant Spreadwing, Small Redeye, Green-eyed and Hairy Hawkers, and Common Clubtail to our growing holiday list.

To date, 97 butterfly species have been recorded in La Brenne, nearly twice the number occurring in the whole of Britain! These include several species which are rare or rapidly declining in other parts of Europe. Examples should include Large Chequered Skipper, Ilex Hairstreak, Camberwell Beauty, Marsh Fritillary, Woodland Grayling and Pearly Heath. In addition, no fewer than 36 species of orchid occur in the park. Species that should be in flower at the time of our visit include: Brenne, Fragrant, Looseflowered, Bee, Pyramidal, Lesser Butterfly, Greater Butterfly, Lizard, Lady, Man and Tongue Orchids, as well as Red, Broadleaved, Mueller’s and Small-leaved Helleborines, and Violet Limodore. This superb proliferation of orchids is one of the botanical highlights of the summer months and it is an interesting exercise of imagination to match the various bizarre flower shapes with the names borne by the plants!

Among the breeding birds we should see in both the Vienne and La Brenne are Purple Heron, Cattle Egret, Night Heron, Black-necked Grebe, Garganey and Whiskered Tern — the last more numerous here than anywhere else in France. Warblers to be found include Fan-tailed, Melodious and Bonelli’s, while other species include Black Kite, Shorttoed Eagle, Honey Buzzard, harriers, Hobby, Red-backed Shrike, Black Redstart, Short-toed Treecreeper, Serin and Cirl Bunting. The calls of Hoopoes and Golden Orioles and the powerful songs of Nightingales complete this classic collection of European birds.

We will use two hotel bases in order to reduce daily travel and to maximise our time spent in the field. This will be an ideal holiday for those with a particular interest in dragonflies or the all-round naturalist who prefers unhurried outings. There will be opportunities to linger and take photographs, or to simply become immersed in the sights and sounds of mid-summer in this very special, yet rarely publicised, region of France.

Yellow spotted Emerald immature male Dave Smallshire (Dave Smallshire)Blue eye Erythromma lindenii m (Dave Smallshire)Etang de Bellebouche (Dave Smallshire)Etang Vieux (Dave Smallshire)Etange de Biai Moulismes (Dave Smallshire)Lilypad Whiteface male (Nick Ransdale)Orange Featherleg Platycnemis acutipennis m side (Dave Smallshire)Pinail pond (Dave Smallshire)River Gartemps near Lathus (Dave Smallshire)Small Pincertail Onychogomphus forcipatus male side (Dave Smallshire)Small Spreadwing Lestes virens m uppers (Dave Smallshire)Southern Darter imm m (Dave Smallshire)Western Clubtail Gomphus pulchellus m oblique (Dave Smallshire)Winter Damsel Sympecma fusca imm f (Dave Smallshire)Yellow spotted Whiteface male (Nick Ransdale)Black-veined White (David Morris)Broad-bodied Chaser (David Morris)European Pond Terrapin (David Morris)Giant Peacock Moth (David Morris)Large Whiteface maleLilypad Whiteface maleMezieres-en-Brenne (David Morris)Naturetrek group in La BrenneSunrise over St-Michel en Brenne (David Morris)Yellow-spotted Whiteface male (Nick Ransdale)One of the two hotels stayed at during this tourOne of the two hotels stayed at during this tour
June 2017
Couldn't have asked for better leaders. Both Nick and Cora were great fun. Nick, especially, performed above and beyond the call of duty. I had a target of 35 species of Odonata. It was very pleasing to see many more than that AND to photograph them.
Summer 2015
Good company, excellent food and accommodation, blue skies and an excellent knowledgeable leader. I knew nothing about odonata but I do know!
Mr & Mrs D
We both enjoyed this holiday. Excellent itinerary with good accommodation complemented by enjoyable company. In all, a pleasant few days spent in a lovely area of France.
Summer 2015
The leader was very enthusiastic making sure everyone saw as many species as possible.
We thought both leaders were excellent. I know Dave Smallshire from before and he went to great trouble to find the species and look after everybody.Nick Ransdale's knowledge of the local ares/people/customs/birds/dragonflies was invaluable.
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Wed 12th June 2019 - Wed 19th June 2019



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Flights: Flights are not included with this tourMore 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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Tour Reviews

Couldn't have asked for better leaders. Both Nick and Cora were great fun. Nick, especially, performed above and beyond the call of duty. I had a target of 35 species of Odonata. It was very pleasing to see many more than that AND to photograph them.
G.C., June 2017