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La Belle Vilaine self catering, holiday accommodation

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Bienvenue à La Belle Vilaine
self-catering, holiday cottages on the South Brittany/Loire Atlantique border.

 

LA BELLE VILAINE GARDEN
NATURE NOTES - NOVEMBER 2005

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Wed 9th

A beautiful, sunny day enjoyed by the butterflies - Clouded Yellow, Small Copper and Red Admiral. A tawny owl was heard calling during the evening.
Thurs 10th It would appear that November has suddenly realised that it isn't a summer month! Dry with clear blue skies, but cooler. We were cheered up by the sight of 20+ redwings feeding on the grass. A flock of 7 CATTLE EGRET flew over - quite a common species around the area during autumn and winter - and they do exactly what you would expect and feed among the cows.
Fri 11th Dry but with cloud cover. Four kestrels gave us a great flying and hovering display - we would like to think they are the parents and the two chicks which they raised in the garden this year, although we would expect them to begin to disperse now.
Sat 12th A trip down to the Grande Brière rewarded us with good views of Marsh Harrier and a glimpse of a Hen Harrier. Back at La Belle Vilaine a charme of 30+ Goldfinches brought a flash of colour to an otherwise overcast grey day.
Sun 13th We awoke to clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine - we are seeing autumnal France at its best! A stroll along the seafront in the Golfe du Morbihan rewarded us with very close-up sightings of LITTLE AUK and Black-necked Grebe.
Mon 14th Sunshine and clear blue skies all the way - 12 degrees in the shade. At dusk (6pm) on the way home from walking the dogs, we watched a bat catching flies, calling loudly as it went.
Tues 15th During an early morning walk with our knowledgeable neighbour, we collected a basketful of tasty (edible!) wild mushrooms, although we would not be confident enough to <go it alone>!!
Wed 16th A bright start to a day which became overcast later on. Blackcap (male and female) seen regularly in the garden throughout the morning.
Thurs 17th Yet another beautiful day which was appreciated by a Clouded Yellow butterfly, which flew through the garden.
Fri 18th We awoke to the first ground-frost - a very pretty sight - followed by a beautiful, sunny day. We got close-up views of a flock of CATTLE EGRET during our morning walk with the dogs.
Sat 19th The sunshine just goes on! Although there's a distinct nip in the air, we just had to get out and enjoy the day. A hardy RED ADMIRAL and a plucky little CHIFFCHAFF followed our example and enjoyed the hedgerows along the lane. We walked for an hour, always keeping the river in view and, just as we returned to Le Bois Nouvel hamlet, caught sight of a large flock of thrushes (40 + individuals) - Redwings were the most numerous, but as we scanned the field we heard the familiar "Chuck" of the newly-arrived FIELDFARES, finding 10 or so mixed in with the flock.
Sun 20th A male tawny owl called loudly during the night - he must have been perched on the roof just by our bedroom window. Another beautiful day, so we took the chance to head south into the Loire Atlantique and the salt marshes near Guérande. There were litterally hundreds of Little Egrets and several SACRED IBIS amongst them. At nearby Piriac-sur-Mer we had close up views of a MEDITERRANEAN GULL and several Turnstones.
Mon 21st You may have guessed it already, but it was a beautiful, sunny day! As we walked along the lane overlooking the River Vilaine, we watched a MARSH HARRIER quartering the fields nearby. Further along a BLACK WOODPECKER flew over us towards the tall pine trees. The Fieldfares seemed more numerous in the newly-ploughed field - we spied the on-duty lookout who was keeping a close eye on us and the dogs, from his watchpost in a tree, as we approached, before deciding to give the alarm call, causing the whole flock to fly for cover.
Tues 22nd We awoke to a fresh but sunny day! A small flock of CIRL BUNTING present in garden for much of the morning.
Wed 23rd Another sunny winter day, with clear blue skies. On the way back from an early afternoon walk we came across a PHEASANT walking down the road infront of us.
Thurs 24th Slightly overcast, but bright and dry. Most of our trees are still hanging on to their golden leaves - we have 7 oaks, 2 sweet chestnuts (a free harvest of chestnuts each year keeps us well-supplied ) and 3 ash trees, together with several blackthorn bushes, elder, spindle and holly. We leave an area of un-mown meadow during the sprng and summer, which attracts a wealth of butterflies and supplies seeds for the goldfinches.
Fri 25th Dry and bright. Our garden birds soon learned to use the feeders - something of a novelty hereabouts. Our home-made birdcake is especially appreciated - which is just as well, as it was not easy to search out lard (saindoux) in the supermarkets!
Sat 26th Sorry, but it was dry and bright yet again! Upon opening the wooden shutters we discovered a Green Woodpecker feeding on the lawn. Later whilst tyding the garden we watched a Lapwing performing aerial acrobatics and calling above the lower field - 5 minutes later a lone SACRED IBIS flew up from behind the trees. Was the Lapwing trying to drive him off? Why was he alone - the Ibis are usually a sociable lot, in flocks averaging 7 individuals. Two Mute Swans flew squeekily over.
Sun 27th A beautiful, sunny, day and still day - 7.5 degrees in the shade! We walked for 2 hours with our dogs, Gracie and Ficelle. Our route took us along the Vilaine, through meadows, along quiet country lanes and through tall pine woods - no car journey necessary! The highlight of the walk was a fantastic male HEN HARRIER, quartering the meadows, 4 SNIPE, which flew up as we approached, a large flock of CIRL BUNTING, several CHIFFCHAFF and yesterday's SACRED IBIS - still on his own.
Mon 28th Blue skies again! This morning we had two Grey Wagtails among the usual flock of Pied in the garden. During our walk we were very surprised to hear 2 TAWNY OWLS calling in the woods - especially at 2pm! Other highlights of our walk included a female HEN HARRIER, who came within 30 feet of us whilst quartering the meadow and 3 RED ADMIRAL butterflies out enjoying the sunshine. A Nuthatch and Short-toed Treecreeper were also seen in the wood.
Tues 29th Another sunny day - an inquisitive wren was busy finding several hibernating insects. We have a large log pile for this reason, but he seemed to prefer to hunt amongst the folded patio chairs next to the house.
Wed 30th To top-off a great month's wildlife watching a flock of 300+ (conservative estimate!) mixed finches swooped into the garden. This was exciting enough, but a quick scan with the binoculars found several BRAMBLING within the group. Another first for La Belle Vilaine and just the thing to brighten up an otherwise dull, damp day.
 

LA BELLE VILAINE GARDEN
NATURE NOTES - DECEMBER 2005

Thurs 1st It couldn't last forever, I suppose and it is December - wet and windy all day. A Goldcrest was keeping under-cover in the hedgerow searching for insects. We have noticed large flocks of Lapwing and gulls in the fields as well as large flocks of smaller birds. Perhaps this is because this area of Morbihan has a micro-climate and often escapes the worst of the weather.
Fri 2nd Wet and very windy. The garden birds had it all on just to fly from the hedgerow to the feeding station. Once their goal was reached they then had to battle to hang on to the spinning bird cake - all this causing them to use up valuable energy. We hope that the high fat-content of the cake together with good quality seed was enough to compensate, as moving the feeders closer to the hedge would have carried a risk of surprise attack by preditors such as our neighbour's cats.
Sat 3rd Sun and showers, winds less strong. On our drive back from dog-training this morning, we saw the female Hen Harrier again, this time quartering the field behind the gite gardens.
Sun 4th We saw a badger during the early hours whilst drivng home from a nearby party. Today has been mainly dry and sunny - walked for over 2 hours and saw 2 female hen harriers - one by the river and the second just behind La Belle Vilaine.
Mon 5th A stunningly beautiful day. We followed a circular walk which begins in the port at La Roche Bernard and takes you along the banks of the river Vilaine, crossing the two bridges - see photo page. We disturbed a RED SQUIRREL in the woods.
Tues 6th Fine and bright again. A large flock of mixed thrushes was busy polishing-off the windfall apples in our neighbours garden.
Wed 7th Began fine, with a low mist over the countryside, which gave our beautiful landscape views an ethereal quality. Later on the rain brought down a large proportion of the autumn leaves, carpeting the lanes.
Thurs 8th Fine and dry again. A close-up view of a male-blackcap outside the office window was our only recompense for a day spent up-grading the website!
Fri 9th Another crisp, sunny day - the best lighting conditions to show off the dazzling blue and orange of the kingfisher that flew past us during our daily walk along the river banks.
Sat 10th Weather unchanged. A large flock made up mainly of redwings and starlings were feeding on the lawn - a scan with the binoculars found a single song-thrush amongst them. As usual, though, it was the song thrush which appeared to be perturbed by the "two big eyes" watching it - none of the other birds paid the slightest attention. Could this be because the other two species are more sociable and, therefore, feel more safe - very often having appointed a look-out - whereas the song thrush has only itself to rely upon and is, therefore, by necessity more aware of its surroundings?
Sun 11th Still sunny and dry with vivid blue skies. On our way to buy a christmas tree at La Roche Bernard this morning we saw a roe deer run out of the woods and along a field by the roadside. The highlight of today's walk was a male BULLFINCH.
Mon 12th Slight cloud and breeze. A flock of cirl buntings passed through the garden - we feel very privileged to count this species among the less rare birds here at La Belle Vilaine, as in the UK they are restricted to a small area in the west country.
Tues 13th Sunny and dry. Our large flock of starlings are roosting earlier each evening - we love to watch their aerial display, which we understand acts as a signpost to attract other birds, for two reasons. Firstly safety and warmth in numbers and secondly a valuable news-service. Where are the best feeding areas nearby? Those birds which have struggled to find food may follow the well-fed birds to find food tomorrow.
14th - 17th Weather continued to be dry and bright on the whole. Usual birds were seen, nothing of note.
Sun 18th Woke to a frost, which quickly dispersed in the sunshine. A new addition to the garden bird list today - a male Bullfinch. Another rare event today was the ability to go shopping on a Sunday in a supermarket - Leclerc in Vannes joined a handfull of others and opened its doors to Christmas shoppers. Looking through the books in the "Espace Culturel" we at last found out the French name for a Speckled Wood butterfly. See Garden List on our Local Wildlife page for all the French names of the birds and butterflies that have visited our garden here at La Belle Vilaine.
Mon 19th Overcast with some patchy, fine rain. Another new addition to our garden list - this time it took perseverance with binoculars and telescope, as this bird is particularly tiny but flits around the trees as break-neck speed! A FIRECREST - according to the French bird books, this species is relatively rare in Brittany and along the Channel coast.
Tues 20th A foggy, damp day, but yet another new bird visited our garden. Whilst Reed Buntings are easily seen in the fields which border the Vilaine river, an easy walk away from our holiday cottages, today a male ventured a little further afield and into our garden. We have also been busy at the computer and have started a Weblog diary, with the intention of being able to store, easily accessible archive material in the future - please feel free to click on the link below to familiarise yourself with this new diary.
Wed 21st- Fri 23rd The fog continued throughout Wednesday and Thursday. A sunny, frosty start to Friday made the garden and surrounding countryside look beautiful - see photo pages. The birds were waiting for us by the feeders - flying around us as we re-filled.
Christmas Eve No reindeers sighted yet - but a bright, sunny, if cold day with clear skies, so Santa should find his way without problems here in France. We have 2 Robins co-existing happily in the garden, sharing the food - this is something we noticed whilst still in England - these are territorial birds during the winter months, but seem to pair-up earlier each year.
Le Jour de Noël A beautiful, sunny Christmas Day. A large mixed flock of thrushes (Redwing, Fieldfare and a Songthrush) and Starlings were busy feeding on the lawn as we opened our presents. Unlike the Starlings in Britain, which tended to "eat us out of house and home ", those here do not even approach the feeding station and seem to find enough natural food to sustain them. On the walk back from our local bar this evening, we caught a glimpse of a fox as it crossed the lane.
Not Boxing Day At least not here in France, infact this is a normal working week in France - you do not even get an extra day to compensate for the fact that the "Jour Férié" fell on a Sunday! Another crisp, sunny day. On the wildlife front, it has been business as usual here with nothing out of the ordinary to report.
Tues 27th Clear, blue skies and sunshine dominated the day yet again - that is, up until around 5pm when it began to snow (if very lightly). Bird highlight of the day was a small flock of Cattle Egret seen from the St. Cry to Nivillac road.
Wed 28th Awoke to a white-out - only a dusting of snow overnight that had frozen and which thawed out by mid-day in the sun, but pretty none the less. We suddenly realised that the trees now have no leaves left - quite when this occurred we couldn't say. A kestrel is now perched in the oak tree just outside the office window - so I had better mention him! The blue tits, great tits and greenfinch are not at all phased by him and are continuing to feed from the feeder just below!
Thurs 29th A very hard frost, temperature just managed to rise to 0 degrees by mid-afternoon, having begun the day at -2.6. We have been told that it always pays to carefully scrutinize flocks of birds and today we had the proof - a mixed flock of finches beneath the feeding station included a lone, male BRAMBLING. Go to photo page 2 to see La Belle Vilaine gites in the grip of winter - we feel especially sorry for poor old Cuthbert the gnome!
Fri 30th The temperature has risen again - 10 degrees, but with this has come some damp, windy weather. A second Brambling is now with the flock of finches. They have both been attempting to land on the feeder, but do not seem to be as agile as the other birds.
Sat 31st A fairly warm day, dry with some sunny spells. We seem to have mislaid a Brambling, sorry - the male has not been seen today. We did, however, manage a full-house for thrushes - Song, Mistle, Redwing and Fieldfare (and if Blackbird are the same family, then we had those too - please advise if you are more knowledgeable than us - which is not difficult!). Bonne fête de fin d'année à tout le monde (Happy New Year, everyone)
 

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Self-catering, holiday cottages on the South Brittany/Loire Atlantique border in France.
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