The small étang behind the Maison du Parc makes the perfect pastoral scene. (For the birdwatching readers, there is a Black-crowned Night Heron sitting on the second post from the right and you can watch terns fishing amongst the waterlilies here.)The Brenne wetland area just to the east of us is sometimes referred to as 'the land of a thousand lakes'. In fact it's more like two thousand and growing. The lakes are called étangs in French and they are manmade. In the Middle Ages this naturally swampy area began its transformation into a major centre of pisciculture. Low lying damp patches were dug out and streams dammed to create more and more small lakes for raising freshwater fish such as carp. Over time many of these lakes have become semi-natural, with long shallow water reed bed tails at one end and deeper water near the earthern digues at the other. In the 19th century there was a concentrated effort to drain the land and control the water, as the place had deteriorated into a malarial swamp. Today, fish farming is once again big business, and the creation of new lakes continues.
The etang at le Bouchet, behind
the Maison du Parc
the Maison du Parc
The reedbed tail of Etang Vieux, hidden and otherworldly.As a side effect of the many lakes and reed beds, the Brenne is France's third most important wetland and an important stopping off point on the migratory route of some species and summer nesting site for others. Birdwatchers come here in droves and there are now several well known hides and birdwatching hotspots. For all the packed carparks and herds of naturalists mooching along quiet roads, like all wetlands it maintains a secretive and primeval air in much of its domaine.
The overflow on Etang de la mer rouge.For fuller posts on how the Brenne was created and has been modified over time please go to my posts about the history and geography of the Brenne and its étangs here and here.