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Bienvenue à La Belle Vilaine
Self-catering, holiday cottages on the South Brittany/Loire Atlantique border in France.
Pet friendly, family-run gite accommodation - dogs welcome.
Residential Dog-training Courses now running - optional extra, fees apply.

Nature Notes from La Belle Vilaine Gites, Brittany

NOTE : with detailed Nature Notes dating from 2005 - 2010 we have decided to stop updating this area. The wonderful wildlife is still here and is generally the same from year to year. Please visit the archive nature notes for the time of year you are planning to visit.

January - February 2011 - scroll down page for these reports

New user-friendly archives - Easy access to all previous Nature Notes dating back to November 2005 -
ARCHIVES


Click here for a full (bi-lingual) list of Birds, Butterflies and Moths seen in our garden

Birdwatching holidays in South Brittany and Loire Atlantique. See bottom of page for details.

Possibility of Tuesday changeovers - trial period for cheaper ferry crossings. Contact us.

If you are planning a holiday and wish to know what species are possible at certain times of the year, please refer to the Archives page. As we now have 5 years of month-by-month archives and numerous photos of species recorded available we have decided to condense the Nature Notes into monthly report at the end of the month. Each report is now divided between the groups of species - Bird, Butterfly, Moth, Dragonfly and Mamal.
One of the best times of year to visit to see the wildlife is in April and May.

Birds

STOP PRESS! Three Black Kites (Milan noir) flew low over our garden on 12th February – a whole 2 weeks earlier than the previous earliest record (we have been logging their arrival dates since 2006).

Other highlights included:

Hen Harrier (Busard Saint-Martin) female – quartering the field at the end of the lane (2nd Jan)
Cattle Egrets ( Héron Garde-boeufs)– x 9 in the field behind the gite gardens (8th Jan)
Firecrest (Roitelet à triple-bandeau) – In the hedgerow below the woods near home. (9th Jan)
Crested Tits (Mésange Huppée) – seen regularly in the woods near home, as usual.
Bramblings (Pinson du Nord) - have been seen, but not in great numbers this winter.
Fieldfare (Grive litorne) - around in good numbers in January and February. I love their soft "chuck-chuck" calls.

Black Woodpecker (Pic noir) – flew over my head, near Férél, as I drove between lessons. (2nd Feb)
Siskins (Tarin des aulnes)- a flock of around 15 individuals feeding in the pines along the road by the river. (6th Feb)
Great White Egret (Grande Aigrette) – at the lake near the river (7th Feb).
Woodlark (Alouette lulu) – have been busy serenading us on several days in Jan and Feb. Their song is one that never fails to brighten my day.
Nuthatches (Sittelle torchepot), Short-toed Treecreepers (Grimpereau des jardins), Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Pic épeiche) and Green Woodpeckers (Pivert) have also been very visible throughout the last 2 months.

Magpies (Pie bavarde) are now well advanced with their nest-making projects. Robins (Rouge-gorge), Great Tits (Mésange charbonnière), Woodlarks (Alouette lulu), Song Thrushes (Grive musicienne), Mistle Thrushes (Grive draine) and Dunnocks (Accenteur mouchet) are all now regularly heard singing around the garden.

I have still to see a single Redwing (Grive mauvis) this winter – extremely unusual. Cheryl recorded just one individual in her garden in January. Yet Fieldfares (Grive litorne) have been around in good numbers. The Cattle Egrets have been much scarcer than any other years – presumably the cold weather back at the end of November and into December pushed them south.

nature,holidays,gitessouthbrittany
This pair of Cattle Egrets fancied a
go at agility in our garden!
Black Kites (Milan noir)
are regulars above our garden from March to October

The 3 individuals that I recorded over our garden on 12th Feb
were the earliest record we have.
nature,holidays,gitessouthbrittany
nature,holidays,gitessouthbrittany
We are very lucky to have good numbers of
Crested Tit in the woods along our lane.

Butterflies and Moths

A single Peacock (Paon du jour) butterfly was the first to be seen on the wing in 2011.

This was followed by a possible Large Tortoishell (Grande Tortue) in the garden on 9th February - it flitted up to the window, but by the time I got outside it had gone. At this time of year it could also have been a Comma (Robert le diable - very strange French common name!), however, it seemed larger ...... one that got away from a definate new addition to our garden list!

Just a few days later as Cheryl and I walked the dogs on Friday 11th February we had another sighting of a large, brown butterfly - this time it was in the exact spot that we regularly see Large Tortoishell (just along the lane from home towards the river and on the edge of the wood). This time again, it disappeared before I got my binoculars up to my eyes - but the size together with location lead me to think my id was correct. Both the Large Tortoishell and Comma over-winter as butterflies (imago) and can be seen on sunny days at this time of year.

We also saw several male Brimstones (Citron - a more appropriate French common name!)on the wing during the same walk. This is another species that over-winters as an adult, yet these specimens were so fresh-looking and bright that you would be forgiven for thinking they had just emerged from their chrysalis!

For a list of the species recorded in our garden (including French common names), see the link at the top of this page.

Male Brimstone
(Citron)

Obviously, this shot was taken during the summer!
nature,holidays,gitessouthbrittany
nature,holidays,gitessouthbrittany
Large Tortoishell
(La Grande Tortue)

This photo was taken on my mobile phone in
February 2008 at the same spot as we saw this month's
specimen. This again bears up my id.

Other Species

Common Lizards and Squirrels – have been out and about since the end of January on sunny days.

I was very surprised to see a frog hopping across road on our lane as I drove home around 8 pm (7th Jan). During the last week of January and the first week of February we saw several squished frogs/toads on the lanes near home – proving that even quiet lanes like ours are a hazard to such creatures. We are checking our pond daily for the first frogspawn of the year, nothing so far (12th Feb). We are also looking forward to the European Tree Frogs beginning their mating season – the noise they make is incredible for such a small creature, but we love it.

The Mimosa trees are in flower (beginning Feb) and the first Lesser Celandine (Fricaire) flowers appeared on 11th February.

La Belle Vilaine plant list - CLICK HERE .
Let us use our extensive local knowledge to help you to look for exciting species such as:
Bluethroat, Black Kite, Black-winged Stilt, Whiskered and Black Tern, Hoopoe, Black Woodpecker,
Red Squirrel, Camberwell Beauty, Swallowtail .... Click here for details of our last-minute deals for mid season breaks at low season prices.
Birdwatching breaks available all year.
White Stork breeding colony - see photos in July 08 Notes.
Moth trapping evenings for our guests here at La Belle Vilaine.

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La Belle Vilaine
Self-catering, holiday cottages on the South Brittany/Loire Atlantique border in France.
Friendly family run gite accommodation where dogs are welcome.