Just back from a wonderful area, La Brenne, which is a natural regional park (more here) constituted of hundreds of lakes and wet meadows. Since the time is rainy at spring, and leaves are just , it’s been an amazing bath in acute greeny greens…
Moreover, since spring almost never comes alone, we’ve been gratified by many good surprises (plants of course, but not only, so you can keep reading… ;).
Okay, as I already put it first, this is a place where lakes are spotting the land in a mosaic of ready-to-change stands and shores, just in between very muddy ways and meadows. There, you have both completely open and treely enclosed waters, and very different emotions emanate from this neighbouring diversity.
Since I’m in no way really a committed birder, I won’t give in any listing, though birds are of course perfectly happy with such a profusion of space and resources (huh ahem, a quick shortlist from guilt, swanns and ducks there were for sure, flashy white egrets, fleshy grey herons, oh dear cool wetland birds!).
Spring flood was occuring, and even was at its best, so there was some dispute as to where land and water stood. It’s unlikely that an oak would grow out of water, therefore you might guess what was a more recent contest, but given the numerous transitions between sure-wet-plants and let-s-grow-here-s, telling apart kingdoms was a risky game.
Of course, that’s not really an issue, unless you happen to be somewhat of a swamp-keener that relies heavily on waters to make up your business through a seasonally fluctuating path. As intruders, we just got trapped in the muds, and however firm the ground looked like, the thumb rule was “you will never reach certainty until your foot reach something”. Something is not hard to define, it definitely means something hard.
No need to say this is frog paradise. Not a parody. It is therefore also a paradise for frog parasites. Have a look at this cute Rana dalmatina (litteraliy translating as Agile Frog from its vernacular French name).
First, it looks like fragile (though definitely agile too), which is not unexpected after such a long wintertime.
But then, you’ll notice its eyes are circled with white. And this is not a good sign… I don’t know exactly what kind of parasite this froglet is attacked by, I just hope she can manage to live with it.
As a wet area with a respectable surface, La Brenne counts many amphibian species, some of which are considered endangered or at risk. Since it is only the beginning of the reproductive season, we met the most frequent species pondering to the ponds.
Here is probably the common Pelophylax kl. esculentus (which I first learned about as Rana esculenta), also referred to as the Green Frog (well, I haven’t found any time to dig through frogs systematics, but if know of a good online resource for European species, please comment here).
It was right on the spot, among flowering Ranonculus aquatilis, in a green net of algae. At least they shared pieces of a name before the frog was renamed according to the evolutionary true mess its taxon is (well, hybrids with weird selfish genomes). Ranonculus stands for small Rana. On the other hand, I’m not sure what Pelophylaxonculus would bring in the air water…
On the other side, meadows are somewhat tainted with a great deal of humid patches offering open sunny places with a regular swig of moisten soil and swings of morning dew. For those plants who enjoys lights and inbetween, this is the place…
Where wealth is at its gorgeous, there might be some spot where orchids would flourish. And indeed, they do. Most amazing, some species otherwise common but not so widespread Dactylorhiza can spread in a region-long fashion, erecting their purple inflorescences along the roads by dozens hundreds.
So please admire these. Dactylorhiza is a quite complex genus with many species whose identification may prove tricky. Again, lacking with proper id-tools, and at a loss with competing taxonomical schemes and opinated authorities, I won’t take any further risk, though I think these are Dactylorhiza maculata, the Heath Spotted Orchis (a phenotypically very diverse and polymorphic plant by the way).
At least, the pictures brings more than one cuty. The green line is a caterpillar. With luxuous taste since feeding on orchid flowers is rather a bit eccentric. On the other hand, there were plenty of this food on this patch (yep, hundreds again)…
Moreover, while our frogs were consistent with their background life-choice, this caterpillar is adventurous: it appears as flashy, if not fleshy, on this purplish inflorescence… An hexapodic version of “live fast, die young”?
Local density may help finding a mate in plant species, but it is also a call for herbivores. Not always the best bet, when you happen to be chosen as a meal, though neighbours also provide a possible escape if they prove appetant.
These paler orchid inflorescences, living in a sparser population of a few distant neighbours, were of course at a lesser risk of florivory. Cold changing morning left it with a resting visitor, a Bombylus fly. This insect is unfortunately not a pollinator of orchids (or at least, not a pollinator for this species), which require pollinia to be stuck somewhere on the insect body and usually translate into specialized pollinator species. Anyhow, a visitor is by no way bad news…
And these inflos were apparently already successful in eliciting pollinator visits, as their basal flowers now stand up along the stem (the left individual is highly successful!), a sign that fruits are maturing seeds.
Oh… Yep, orchids season is open, I guess this will be a recurrent theme at Seedsaside…