Wildlife of France
If you’re lucky you can watch wild wolves in the Mercantour National Park. Ideal for a long weekend trip from Nice. Read more
France is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and exciting European countries for the naturalist. It is remarkably varied, with an enormous coastline shared between three seas, and vast areas of semi-natural habitats stretching upwards to the highest mountains in Europe. Ecologically, it lies at the crossroads of Europe, and shares species from virtually all the climatic regions in the continent. It is also at the hub of the European migration wheel, and huge numbers of birds pass through on the way to their breeding or wintering grounds. Essentially practical, the book first introduces the ecology, geology, and wildlife of France, then goes on to describe where to see its natural history at its best. There are descriptions of a selection of some 200 sites to visit, each carefully chosen to show a range of habitats and fascinating wildlife. The entries are the personal choice of the author and are based on intensive travel and research in the region.
France boasts an amazing diversity of habitats and wildlife, from Ibex and Chamois scaling the cliff faces of the Alps and colonies of Puffins and Gannets on the rugged coasts of Brittany to one of the last western strong-holds of the European Mink on the Atlantic coast and flocks of Flamingos shimmering in the heat as they feed in the wetlands of Camargue. France is one of the richest countries in Europe in terms of flora and fauna – its mammals include Wolf, Lynx and the remarkable Pyrenean Desman. It also boasts one of the highest totals of breeding bird species in Europe, some of the best butterfly sites, and an outstanding array of wildflowers. “Wild France” celebrates the landscapes and natural history of this surprisingly diverse country. Expert naturalist Bob Gibbons examines the geography and climate, the many different habitat types and the remarkable variety of wildlife, while 250 superb colour photographs dramatically illustrate the species and places mentioned in the text.
One reader wrote:
In summary, this is a very beautiful book and ideal for dipping into (liked the information set in the boxes that described, for example, the varity of bat species in one region) but it is unsatisfactory as a comprehensive guide of any form of wildlife. anyone looking for a field guide or something specialist, should look elsewhere. The photography is superb and will delight all fans of natural history.
The Camargue, a vast wetland in the middle of the river Rhone delta, is one of the most important birding areas in western Europe. On the migration route from north Africa, it provides a rest-and-refuelling stop for many species, as well as being a protected nesting site for thousands of greater flamingos in late spring and early summer. Close by are the hills of Les Alpilles, where you can spot Bonelli’s eagle and the blue rock thrush. To the east of the marshy Camargue is an area called La Crau which, curiously, is completely dry and home to pin-tailed sandgrouse and other desert birdlife. See also Where the wild things are
Most of the “big” French wildlife is found in the Rhone Alps region, which includes the biggest peaks in the Alps as well as the Rhone and Isere rivers. Soaring eagles, mountain goats, wild boar, mountain deer, turtles and aquatic plants, the Rhone-Alps contain a wide variety of wildlife, as many as 383 species not counting the thousands of invertebrates.
I’ve been small mammal trapping a few times in the forest at Mareil-Marly, to the south-west of Paris near St Germain en Laye. Plenty of Wood Mice and Bank Voles there, along with Wild Boar, Red Squirrels, Hedgehogs and Roe Deer. I have also caught Greater White-toothed Shrews here. Keep your eyes open wherever you are – I saw a Beech (Stone) Marten at 3am on a backstreet in St Germain en Laye during an enforced walk home. At 3am in St Germain it seems you have more chance of finding a Beech Marten than you do a taxi… I have also seen a Beech Marten in my back yard in L’ Etang La Ville (near St Germain En Laye) and caught my only Nathusius’s Pipistrelle there too in a harp trap in my yard.