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Bienvenue à 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.

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Nature Notes from La Belle Vilaine Gites, Brittany
April 2008
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La Belle Vilaine plant list - CLICK HERE .

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


Sunday 27th - Walking the dogs yesterday we saw a Hoopoe that had been calling in the distance all day - today we had 2 pairs, again in the vicinity of the gîtes. We also saw and heard Cuckoo, Turtle Dove, a pair of Black Kite calling loudly as they left the trees just ahead of us and circled ever higher over the river, Cirl Bunting, Stonechat, Kestrel, 3 Buzzards being mobbed by one courageous Crow, the Herons (busy feeding their young) and several other more common species. We heard Cetti's Warbler. We also had a great view of a pair of Green Lizards - the male with his blue throat.

Birdwatching holidays Brittany France
We saw 2 pairs of Hoopoe near home today - this pair landed just infront of us along the country lane.
Wk 4
Thurs. - A 3-hour guided tour around the salt marshes this morning brought the following highlights: - numerous close views of Bluethroat (Gorgebleue à mirroir) (see photo);, large numbers of breeding Black-winged Stilt (Echasse blanche) and Avocet (Avocette Elégante); a small flock of Turnstone (Tournepierre à collier) with a solitary Dunlin (Bécasseau variable), Whimbrel (Courlis corlieu) and Curlew (Courlis cendré); one lone Bar-tailed Godwit (Barge rousse) feeding with a small group of Grey Plover (Pluvier argenté); Marsh Harrier (Busard des roseaux); Whitethroat (Fauvette grisette); Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticole des jonc) and last but not least - a Black Redstart male (Rouge-queue noir).
During the evening we took a walk around a local wood, hoping for Nightjar displaying (one was photographed there by a guest last summer) - no sign of Nightjar, but we did hear a cacophony of frog calls coming from the pond. Investigation by torchlight eventually revealed the source - a tiny European Tree Frog, who was obviously not alone! The level of noise made by such tiny creatures is nothing short of astounding!
This European Tree Frog was photographed in 2007 in our garden. This week we enjoyed the "Frog Chorus" down by the pond - what a racket from this chap and his friends, who measure barely 2 inches long!
Wildife in Brittany
Birding holidays Brittany and Loire Atlantique
Just one of the many sightings of Bluethroat we had on Thursday 25th.
Wk 4 ... continued

Weds. - Our guests reported the first Turtle Dove (Tourtourelle des bois) of the year. They also saw a lot of the same species as yesterday, plus Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail (Bergeronette printanière), Cirl Bunting and Yellowhammer (Bruant zizi and jaune) and a booming Bittern (Butor Etoilé).

Tues. - A fantastic day's birding with our current guests - heard 2 Nightingales (Rossignol philarmèle) singing and a Grasshopper Warbler (Locustelle tachetée). Saw 3 Bluethroat (Gorgebleue à mirroir), 50+ Whiskered Tern (Guifette mustac), Great White Egret (Grande Aigrette) in the huge, mixed heronry, 10 White Stork (Cigogne blanche) nests with sitting parents, Black-winged Stilts (Echasse blanche), a food pass between a pair of Marsh Harrier (Busard des roseaux) .... and lots more, including the rather close-up views of Camberwell Beauty - illustrated below. Mustn't forget the ubiquitous Black Kites!

Sunday - Stop Press: Very busy day seeing great species - report and photos to follow. However, a lifer for us and our guests on La Belle Vilaine Wildlife tours - Kentish Plover (very aptly named Gravelot à collier intérompu in French), unfortunately too far for good photos, but great in the scope and amongst Ringed Plovers (Grand gravelot) for comparison. Very good, prolonged views! Also Turnstone (Tournepierre à collier), Sanderling (Bécasseau Sanderling), Wheatear (Traquet motteux). Afterwards we visited nearby marshes and had Red Squirrel (in the woodland surrounding the marsh), Cirl Buntings (Bruant zizi), a pair of Water Rail (Râle d'eau), Spoonbill (Spatule blanche), Avocet (Avocette élégante), Black-winged Stilts (Echasse blanche) by the dozen Cetti's and Fan-tailed Warbler (Bouscarle de Cetti and Cisiticole des joncs). The hides there are very new and clean - and free!
We spent the afternoon visiting a wetland nature reserve, where we had Spotted Redshank (Chevalier arlequin) (in breeding plumage), both Black- and Bar-tailed Godwit (Barge à queue noire and Barge rousse) (again in breeding plumage), Whitethroat (Fauvette grisette), Greenshank (Chevalier aboyeur) as well as several of the species listed above. Aside from birds we had 2 Green Lizards (Lézard vert) and a Green Hairstreak butterfly (La Thécla de la ronce) . But the highlight was a pair of Hobby (Faucon hobereau) doing acrobatics infront of the tower hide! One swooped to catch prey on the wing, which it continued to eat in-flight! If that wasn't enough, we began the day with Cuckoo (Coucou gris) and Hoopoe (Huppe fasciée) in the garden as we were loading the car! I love life here!!!!!!
The day included many other lifers for our guests. Everyone was happy!

How about this for getting close-up to nature!
This Camberwell Beauty (Morio) wanted to get a closer look at Paul!!!! Taken 22nd April.
Wildlife holidays Brittany and Loire Atlantique
Birdwatching tours Brittany France
This Black-winged Stilt was just one of many that breed in the area - photo taken from hide.
Week 3

On Thursday (17th) we did a tour of the local WHITE STORK nests (Cygogne blanche)and found at least 10 occupied - adult sitting, so presumably on eggs, which should hatch towards the end of the month/beginning of May. We also visited a "Heronry" and counted over 120 Cormorant (Grand cormoran) nests, a few Herons (Héron cendré) and, occupying the lower branches, at least 5 Little Egret (Airgrette garzette) nests. This site is also a roost for a couple of hundred Egrets.
In the marshes we found three pairs of Black-winged Stilt (Echasse blanche) and also a pair of Little Ringed Plovers (Petit Gravelot). A few Shoveler (Canard souchet) pairs remained, the majority having now left for their breeding grounds.

Good views of a pair of Cuckoos (Coucou gris) on Friday 11th. Plenty of Black Kites (Milan noir) around now. Also heard the unmistakable trill of Crested Tit (Mésange huppée) again in the woods. The weather has been typical for April - mainly sunshine, but with showers - even a smattering of hail (thankfully, short-lived). The local heronry was very busy yesterday evening with lots of noisy calling and coming and goings.
On Sunday morning we heard the Hoopoes (Huppe fasciée) calling for the first time - even though they have been present for a few weeks, they have remained silent until now. Then a pair flew by. Also of note during our short walk were a pair of Cirl Bunting (Bruant zizi) along with at least 2 other singing males, a pair of Green Woodpecker (Pivert) and a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pic épeiche) - all within a short walk from home.
On Sunday afternoon we visited a nature reserve near Vannes and had good views of a pair of Black-winged Stilt (Echasse blanche), our first Whitethroats (Fauvette grisette) of the year and very large numbers of Avocet (Avocette élégante). One pair of Coots (Foulque macroule) were busy feeding 4 chicks. An Osprey (Balbusard pêcheur) had been on the reserve that morning.

There's no accounting for taste when it comes to choice of nesting sites - but for this White Stork and many of his/her fellows an EDF pylon is the perfect spot! At least the views are good! This shot was taken from inside the car!
Birdwatching tours Brittany
Birdwatching holidays in Brittany
This Little-ringed Plover (Petit gravelot) was one of a pair feeding in the marshes.
This chick is in a heronry very close to our home. In all there are 7 nests. We kept our distance and camouflaged ourselves to get this shot, only staying a matter of 10 minutes to avoid disturbance. The Heronry is visible from the lane. Taken 14th in the early evening.
Birdwatching holidays Brittany, France
Wildlife holidays in Brittany
This amazing Green Lizard (Lézard vert) was sunning herself on the bank by the side of the road just a few hundred metres from home as we walked the dogs on Friday evening (11th)
This is the female - the male having a blue throat.
Week 2 What a wonderful start to the week! Sunshine, good company, stunning scenery and great wildlife! Today (Monday) we organised a trip to the nearby marshes with a group of 18 - both English and French. We hired a guide with a large punt, met at 9 am and enjoyed over 2 hours of great sightings. Some of us then re-located to another reserve for the afternoon. Highlights included :

Our first Camberwell Beauties (Morio) of the year.
Our first SWIFT (Martinet noir) of the year - a lovely surprise all round;
Black Kites (Milan noir) - including the one in the photo below;
Bluethroat (Gorgebleue à mirroir) - at least 10 singing males;
Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticole des joncs) - first of the year;
Sedge Warbler (Phragmite des joncs) - parachuting;
Whiskered Tern (Guiffette moustac) - 3, again our first this year;
Sand Martins (Hirondelle de rivage), House Martins (Hirondelle des Fenêtres) and Swallows (Hirondelle rustique) - in their hundreds;
Marsh Harriers (Busard des roseaux) - displaying in stooped flight;
Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail (Bergeronette printanière) - a first ever!;
Black-winged Stilts (Echasse blanche) - several flying over and calling and then 2 landed.
Spoonbills (Spatule blanche) - a flock of 8;
Snipe (Bécassine des marais) - at least 6 times in zig-zagging flight;
Wheatear (Traquet motteux) - at least 2 and again our first this year;
Great White Egret (Grande Aigrette) - from car in field by side of road between reserves;
Cetti's Warbler (Bouscarle de Cetti) - not only heard BUT SEEN!!!;
Reed Bunting (Bruant des roseaux) - a pair as we glid (glided?) along;
Garganey (Sarcelle D'été) - at least 5 individuals;
White Stork (Cygogne blanche) - good views of 3 individuals in flight;
Sacred Ibis (Ibis Sacré) - in very large numbers as per usual, but still nice to see.
Birdwatching holidays South Brittany, France
This Black Kite continued to eat his meal on the banks of the marsh canal whilst we all snapped away!
... not forgetting the real star of the show!
Self-catering bird watching holidays Brittany
Wk 1
The first Cuckoo (Coucou gris) of 2008 called on Tuesday (1st) and all day! Cirl Buntings (Bruant zizi) are now singing loudly in the garden and the surrounding countryside. Whilst we have been seeing Swallows (Hirondelle rustique) elsewhere, the first ones arrived in our hamlet on the 31st March.
We set up our moth-trap on Thursday evening and caught Hebrew Character (La Gothique) and Common Quaker (L'Orthosie du Cerisier) along with 3 other species - we're working on id (they were quite small!). See below for photos.
On Saturday we were surprised to find a huge Great Silver Beetle (4 cm) on the lawn. We re-located him to the edge of a nearby pond. See below for photo.
Bluebells and Forget-me-nots are in flower.

Friday evening found us back at the nature reserve in the marshes looking for Bittern (Butor Etoilé) which we had seen and heard there 10 days earlier. We struck-out this time, but had the following:
Bluethroat (Gorgebleue à mirroir) - great close-up views and lots of singing.
Sedge Warblers (Phragmite des joncs) - singing well, at least 5 individuals
Willow Warbler (Pouillot fitis) - seemed as interested in us as we were in it!
White Storks (Cygogne blanche) - at least 3 came in to settle among the reeds for the night.
Great White Egret (Grande Aigrette) - flew overhead just as we were leaving - almost dark.
Spoonbills (Spatule blanche) - Several in flight
Sacred Ibis (Ibis Sacré) - flocks of up to 20 flying over.
Marsh Harriers (Busard des Roseaux) - less numerous than 10 days ago

On Sunday afternoon we enjoyed great close-up views of a pair of Hoopoe (Huppe fasciée) who were quite happy to continue feeding on the road in front of us as we approached. Unfortunately, just as we were reaching for cameras, having enjoyed them through the binoculars, a car arrived and they flew off! This is a quiet lane that sees an average of 2 cars per hour! C'est la vie.

Wildlife holidays in Brittany

Great Silver Beetle - photographed on a standard playing card for comparison.
Nature in South Brittany, France

Hebrew Character(La Gothique)
Moth-trapping, Brittany, France

Common Quaker (L'Orthosie du cerisier)
Wildlife holidays Brittany, France
Early Grey (La Noctuelle aréolée)
Nature in France
Frosted Green (La Rieuse/La Moqueuse/La Tête rouge)
Nature in Brittany
Flame Shoulder (Le Cordon blanc)

These were all in our moth trap on Friday (4th) morning. The following week we set the trap up again and added Pebble Prominent (le Bois veiné) to our garden list.

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.