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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.

Nature Notes from La Belle Vilaine Gites, Brittany

April - June 2010 - scroll down page for these reports

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

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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 4 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

We have not been further afield than walking the dogs from home lately – for what is likely to be around in the marshes etc (30 mins drive) see archives for previous years.

What follows is just a short list of highlights during April, May and the beginning of June (time of writing – 13th June).

Black Kite (Milan noir) – back in good numbers and seen daily hunting very low over the garden.
Hoopoe (Huppe fasciée) – arrived later than in other years, but more than made up for it by choosing to nest very close to our garden boundary (resulting in numerous views every day as the parents fly backwards and forwards, very close to the house, to gather food for their young). They will even feed on our lawn right by the house, with the dogs and cats out in the garden! Stop Press: On 10th June we came across a family of 4 Hoopoes feeding on the grass along our lane. Since then we have not seen the parents fly over the garden with food – we can only assume that this was “our” family, successfully fledged!
Turtle Dove (Tourterelle des bois) – again late to arrive, but nesting in the garden and serenading us with their lovely calls.
Nightjar (Engoulevent ) – Heard calling in the woods across the field next to us.
Woodlark ( Allouette lulu) – Singing nearby.
Black Woodpecker (Pic noir) – one flew over the end of the garden as we ate our evening meal on the patio during May. Others heard calling in the woods on more than one occasion.
Barn Owl (Effraie des clochers), Little Owl (Chevêche d'Athéna) and Tawny Owl (Chouette hulotte) – all present and breeding near home. The Little Owls are particularly vocal!
Cirl Buntings (Bruant zizi) and Yellowhammers (Bruant jaune) – both singing and breeding nearby.
Melodious Warbler (Hypolaïs polyglotte) – one male singing in the same tree along the lane, by the woods every time we pass by for the last 2 weeks!
Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticole des joncs) – calling along the river.
Bluethroat (Gorgebleu à mirroir) – one seen in April at the estuary (during my lunch hour).
Reed and Sedge Warblers (Rousserolle effarvatte and Phragmite des joncs) – breeding in the reeds along the river.
Great White Egret (Grande Aigrette) – one seen flying over the lake during April.
Whitethroat (Fauvette grisette) – breeding in the hedgerow along the lane.

Birdwatching holidays, South Brittany, Loire Atlantique, France
Hoopoe - thinking about doing the
agility tunnel in our garden!

Butterflies

Although we had a couple of weeks with temperatures soaring into the 30’s and no rain, the butterfly numbers were well down on previous years. On the wing during this period were :-

Swallowtail
Camberwell Beauty
Clouded Yellow
Brimstone
Marbled White
Small Heath
Small Copper
Sooty Copper
Dingy Skipper
Large Skipper
Orange tip
Large Tortoishell
Holly Blue
Common Blue
Short-tailed Blue
Black-veined White
Green-veined White
Small White
Large White
Red Admiral
Queen of Spain Fritillary
Meadow Brown (suddenly appeared in the first week of June in good numbers)

For a list of French common names of these species, see the link at the top of this page.

Moths

Various factors got in the way of setting up our moth trap – not least the reports of disappointing “catches” on UK forums, which did not inspire me to get up at 5 am for nothing! However, we did have a Fox Moth at the window on the night of 10th June and there are good numbers of White Ermine around. A single Garden Tiger was looking very washed-out and dishevelled on a windowsill on 9th June.

In our garden on 13th June – Silver Y and Five-spot Burnets (mating)

wildlife, nature, holidays, south Brittany, France
Five-spot Burnet moths mating in our garden
Dragonflies

As with all insects, numbers were down on previous years. However, our garden pond came up trumps with newly-emerged specimens daily from mid to late May. These were mainly Broad-bodied Chasers (Libellule déprimé) – for the most part the only evidence of this was the left-over larvae cases (exuviae), of which we have counted 15+, left clinging to the stems of the pond plants. However, on one occasion we spotted a newly-emerged female waiting for her wings to dry. See photos below.

Other species present at the pond were :

Large Red Damselfly (Corps de feu)
Azure Damselfly (Agrion jouvencelle)
Small Blue-tailed Damselfly (Agrion nain)
Common Darter ( ) - emerging
Emerald Dragonfly - ovipositing

A little further afield we had close views of a Golden-ringed Dragonfly just along the lane at the edge of the woods on 11th June.

The official term for this empty larvae skin is
" exuviae"
We have counted more than 15 of these so far on the
plants in our garden pond.
We can only presume that these are the result of last year's
ovipositing, as our pond is very young.
nature, wildlife, France
dragonflies, South Brittany, nature, holidays
A newly-emerged female Broad-bodied Chaser
waiting for her wings to dry.

Other Species

Newts (Triton) –we have finally seen Newts in our pond! Great excitement! First one seen on evening of 10th July, another seen on evening of 12th and again in the afternoon of 13th.

Red Squirrels (Ecureuil roux) – several sightings along the lanes and in the woods.

Green Lizard (Lézard vert) – seen in the area and then one day Ficelle alerted us to something under one of our bushes. It turned out to be a very feisty Green Lizard.

Grass Snake (Couleuvre à collier)– Ginny, our youngest cat, was very busy playing with one at the end of May. I took her indoors and let it escape into the hedgerow.

Tree Frogs (Reinettes) – these little beauties have really appreciated the new rocks we have installed around our pond. They laid several clumps of spawn – the emerging tadpoles were white! We are keeping an eye on the tadpoles to see if we can identify the different species.

Tadpoles (têtards) – the clumps laid earlier in the season – March/April – gave us cause for concern. We knew we had dragonfly larvae in the pond and saw little evidence of viable tadpoles ‘têtards”. But now we are seeing well-developed tadpoles, which regularly surface to breathe and which are just beginning to sprout legs. We have yet to establish which species of frog these are.

Toad (Crapaud) - We disturbed a huge toad, presumably a female, whilst weeding the wildflower border near our pond today (13th June).

Ficelle alerted us to this handsome chap.
He was enjoying the shade under a bush in the garden.
These Green Lizards are common here - they are much larger
than the Common Lizards we also get.
wildlife, nature, Loire Atlantique, self-catering holidays
nature, wildlife holidays, self-catering accommodation, France
This European Tree Frog was disturbed when Paul
moved a rock to place it around the edge of the pond.
We have several large tadpoles (now with back legs), which I
think are common frogs - because the
Treefrog tadpoles were white when they emerged
from the spawn, which was "laid" later following
a lovely cacophony of Treefrog song over several evenings!
This species is capable of climbing up a window pane and
is very cute - being much smaller than other frogs.
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.

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.