The name chosen for the new region was decided by the French central government without reference to the historical provinces (too many of them inside the region) and based purely on geography: Midi (i.e. “southern regions”) – Pyrénées (Pyrénées mountains that are the southern limit of the region). The French adjective and name of the inhabitants of the region is: Midi-Pyrénéen. Since 1 January 2016, it is part of the new region Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrénées. It was the largest region of Metropolitan France by area, larger than the Netherlands or Denmark.

Because of its size Midi-Pyrénées has the largest number of farms of all France with 60,000 farms in active use. It has also the largest amount of land readily usable with 2.6 million hectares. This is however being reduced by both the increasing population and the CAP. The departments of the Gers, Aveyron, Lot and Tarn-et-Garonne have the most significant agriculural activity of the region. Wine production has suffered in recent years from declining demand, reducing prices and over-production. There are 19 AOC wines in the region. A policy of merging producers into wider groups has been initiated.

There is a difference in landscape between the French Pyrenees and the Spanish Pyrenees. The French Pyrenees are very steep. The mountains are cut through by valleys, which from time forgotten have functioned as trade routes.

The department is drained by three principal streams, the Gave de Pau, the Neste and the Adour. The sources of the first two lie close together in the Cirque of Gavarnie and the Adour descends from the Pie du Midi de Bigorre and irrigates the plain of Tarbes.

The climate is varied depending on where you are. There is a marked contrast between the east and the west which is particularly noticed in the glacial formations. There are none in the east as the quantity of snow falling is insufficient to their formation. The glaciers are confined to the northern slopes of the central Pyrenees and do not descend into the valleys like those of the Alps but have their greatest length in the direction of the mountain chain.

The plains of the Hautes Pyrenees are dedicated to agriculture, growing wheat and maize, the bulk of which is used to feed pigs, poultry and especially geese for the fois gras. Rye, oats, barley and tobacco are also grown. The vine is cultivated and the wines of Madiran and Peyrigure are notable. Chestnut and fruit trees are grown on the lower slopes of the mountain to help soil erosion. Cattle raising is important particularly around Lourdes, Tarbes and the valley of the Aure.

Red squirrels, foxes, deer, badgers, stoats, weasels, common lizards, European Viper, natterjack toads and salamanders are all quite common. However, many timid creatures have taken to the highlands to avoid human pollution and hunting. These inclue Wild Boar, European Chamois, Pyrenean Desman, re-introduced brown bear and Lynx.

A number of large bird species can be found in the Pyrenees such as Red and Black Kite, Booted, Short-toed, Bonellis and Golden Eagles. Alpine choughs are also a common sight as are Griffon, Egyptian and the rare and majestic Lammergeier vultures.

The spring months of June and July are spectacular for the pastures and mountainsides are completely carpeted with purple Pyrenean irises, wild blue aquilegia, indigo blue gentians, giant yellow gentians, maroon fritillaries, pink orchids, white asphodels, white Pyrenean buttercups and scented narcissi, and tiny clusters of pink saxifrage and thyme. There are several uniquely Pyrenean species such as the Pyrenean saxifrage, the Pyrenean iris, the Pyrenean blue thistle, and the ramonda.

With so many flowers and grassland, butterflies are seen throughout the Summer particularly widespread species such as the Apollo Parnassius, Apollo and Swallowtail. In September, the beautiful Hummingbird Hawk Moth can be seen hovering around flowering thistles.

Two restricted butterflies occur here; and Gavarnie Blue, Agriades pyrenaicus, as well as the Glandon Blue, Agriades glandon which belongs to the family Lycaenidae Glandon Blues only fly at high altitude amongst sparse vegetation.

Major Source: Fatbirder

Map Source: Googlemaps™

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