Wednesday 11 May 2011

Crossbill Guide to the Loire Valley

There is a new English language nature guide published for the Loire Valley, Brenne and Sologne. It's published by Crossbill, a Dutch not-for-profit organisation who specialises in regional nature guides designed to encourage the public's involvement with nature conservation. The authors of this guide are Dirk Hilbers, the founder of Crossbill, and our friend Tony Williams, who works for the League pour la Protection des Oiseaux in the Brenne. The guides are distributed by WILDGuides in the UK, but as yet there is no French distributor.

Tony very kindly gave me a complimentary copy. I didn't have anything to do with the production of the guide, but I had done some work for the LPO a while ago, and it was a nice thank you present.

I haven't read it from cover to cover yet, but so far I am very impressed. There is a good clear description of the different types of habitat (small lakes, forests, heathlands, riversides, cultivation, calcareous grassland) you might encounter, and which form a mosaic of small scale farming and related activities. They stress the importance of the Loire's geographic position, straddling as it does the Atlantic coastal region and the Continental region, whilst being close enough for Mediterranean species to turn up regularly, and even the occasional Alpine. They've chosen to illustrate the book with many of my favourite special species - Snakeshead Fritillary flowers, Early Spider Orchids, Adonis Blue and Sooty Copper butterflies, Western Spectre and Orange-spotted Emerald dragonflies. It's not all about birds, and they recognise it as an all-round destination. As they say - 'in between birdwatching and orchid-spotting, why not visit a chateau or enjoy some of the excellent wine'.

My only disappointment is that they have not included us i.e. the Val de la Claise Tourangelle or the Touraine du Sud, in the area they chose to specifically cover. It's a shame, because Preuilly and its surrounds shares the same patchwork of habitats and deserves to be included this otherwise enlightened guide.

However, so I am not ending on a sour note, here are their list of highlights, which I heartily endorse*:
  1. Birdwatching in the Brenne or Sologne and 'experience the stunning diversity'.
  2. Explore the many quiet roads and tracks by bicycle. 'This area is made to be discovered by bicycle'.
  3. Canoe down one of the many slow moving rivers.
  4. Observe raptors in the Forêt d'Orléans.
  5. Admire the many roadside orchids and other wildflowers.
  6. Search the riverbanks and lake edges for the many rare species of dragonflies. 'This region is amongst France's finest for this group of insects.'
  7. Visit an impressive chateau or enjoy some local wine.
  8. Look for European Pond Terrapins and other reptiles which occur in large numbers in the Brenne.

*Sorry - can't resist -
9. Go botanising and butterfly photographing on the limestone spurs along the Val de la Claise Tourangelle and discover their combination of flower rich forests and calcareous grassy slopes. Many rarities and specialist species.


Pollygarter said...

I saw copies in the Maison du Parc in the Brenne, but not in the Maison de la Nature when we were there last month. Word verification most appropriate: "likee"!

Tim said...

I've only one complaint, Susan.... there is no species comparison list in French... just English, Latin, Dutch and German. This makes it very difficult as most French sites [and books] use the French common name and rarely use the Latin! Otherwise my feelings are as yours... can't wait to do the walks!
Pollygarter hasn't had a look at it yet [it is on my side of the bed and I keep dipping in and out.... of the book that is!!]

Word verification is "bedbanes".... so perhaps I'd better let Pauline have a look!!

Tim said...

New WV is "pajtch".... obviously can't spell, but the could "pajtch"...sorry patch the French names list in on their website.

Susan said...

Tim: The lack of French names could turn out to be a pain in the neck, but I haven't experienced the problem of French sites only using French names particularly. I use the Biotope guides, Pinet's Plantes Remarquables de la Brenne, Indre Nature, Le Monde des Insectes - no problem with any of them (although Pinet does list species alphabetically by French name which is exceedingly irritating - but it would be irritating if an English language book had done the equivalent).

GaynorB said...

It looks good. I'll buy a copy and hopefully make time to read rather than put it on a shelf!

Tim said...

Gaynor, it is a fabulous book to dip in and out of.... very well laid out.

Susan, it is more of a "communication" thing... when you are talking to a French-speaking observer, it helps to be able to actually show them the name [so that my disgusting french accent doesn't confuse!]

Pollygarter said...

I can highly recommend the service from Wildguides. I couldn't get their payment system to understand my French address, so I e-mailed them (actually, it's a him, not a them, Brian Clews) and he sent off the book before asking me for my credit card details! What a lovely man.

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