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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
August 2008
New user-friendly archives - Easy access to all previous Nature Notes dating back to November 2005 -

La Belle Vilaine plant list - CLICK HERE .

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

Birdwatching holidays in South Brittany and Loire Atlantique. 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 fledged - see photos in July 08 Notes.
Moth trapping evenings for our guests here at La Belle Vilaine.

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WEEKS 3 and 4
Birds seen this week include most of the species of week 2 (except Barn Owl) we even had a Chiffchaff (Pouillot véloce) - singing in the garden on 29th and good views of a Firecrest (Roitelet à triple bandeau) in the wood. Plus we ventured out a little further afield by car to the marshes and nature reserve (30 minute drive). Highlights:-

Sand Martin (Hirondelle de rivage ) - large flock over the marshes.
Spoonbill (Spatule blanche) - flock of 5 over the marshes.
Avocet (Avocette) - near the salt marshes.
Black-winged Stilts (Echasse blanche) - nature reserve
Green Sandpiper (Chevalier cul-blanc) - "
Spotted Redshank (Chevalier arlequin) - "
Water Rail (Râle d'eau) - heard, nature reserve.
Cattle Egret (Héron garde-boeufs) - good flocks in fields in the area, plus one very confused individual in the salt marshes with a flock of Little Egret (Aigrette garzette) and Sacred Ibis (Ibis sacré).

During the last week the temperatures have sored (32 degrees Saturday 30th) and the butterflies have re-emerged in good numbers adding Comma (Robert le diable) and Brimstone (Citron) to this month's garden list. Unfortunately, as last year, there are still no Clouded Yellow (Souci) around. A Swallowtail (Machaon) was seen by our guests in the wood on Friday, 29th.

Damselflies have been profitting from the good weather also and we have recorded good numbers of Emeralds (Leste) mating in the marshes, as well as Blue-tailed (Agrion élégant) and Scarce Blue-tailed and a Large Red. Our resident Southern Hawker (Aeshne bleue) still flies around us as we walk through the woods and today (Saturday 30th) we are seeing record numbers of Darters flying though the garden - most of which are flying in tandem.

But by far the most exciting part of the last week has been the moth-trapping. We have had an expert staying with us in the gites, who trapped very many species and taught us so much that I felt able to set my moth trap up in a friend's garden and was able to identify the vast majority of the species caught by sight alone. A huge, heartfelt thank you to you, Adrian (and Kathy for putting up with all the moth talk!). The garden moth list now extends to over 100 species! The full list will be uploaded over the coming weeks. But for the moment here are some of the many hightlights:-
Counting from photo opposite and then left to right:
Photo 1 - Peach Blossom (Le Batis)
Photo 2 - Sallow Kitten (La Harpye fourchue)
Photo 3 - Pine-tree Lappet (Bombyx du Pin)
Photo 4 - Dewick's Plusia (La Confuse)
Photo 5 - Eyed Hawkmoth (Le Demi-Paon)
Photo 6 - Elephant Hawkmoth (Le Grand Sphinx de la vigne)
Photo & - Black V Moth (Le V noir) (now extinct in UK)

The Hawkmoths are very large moths, the Lappet is a good size and the others are smaller (size difference not apparent in these photos! )
Peach Blossom Brittany
Sallow Kitten Brittany
Pine-tree Lappet Moth Brittany
Dewick's Plusia - Brittany
Eyed Hawkmoth Brittany
Elephant Hawkmoth Brittany
Black V Moth Brittany
Well, that's official - Black Woodpeckers (Pic noir) are like buses! We haven't seen one lately and then on the 14th we saw 2 - and in different locations. We were treated to almost the whole repertoire of calls - "Night in Africa" (a churring not unlike a huge cricket); "Buzzard" and "Jackdaw" (well that's what it sounds like to me!), we were only missing the "Green Woodpecker yaffle" for the whole range! I helped lead a guided nature walk on Tuesday afternoon (translating) and the French guide told us that the Black Woodpeckers only began breeding in the area during the 90's. Other highlights this week - all sightings either from home or within walking distance:-

Green and Great-spotted Woodpeckers (Pivert and Pic épeiche) - good numbers including juveniles.
Spotted Flycatchers (Gobe-mouches gris) - around in good numbers locally. We witnessed a fledgling being fed.
Pied Flycatcher (Gobe-mouches noir) - 2 in woods above the river.
Little Owl (Chevêche d'Athéna) - one flew in and perched on a tree-stake just outside the kitchen window for a few minutes one evening - apparently unconcerned that I was just a few feet away and that the dogs were with me!
Barn Owl (Chouette effrayante) and Tawny Owl (Chouette hulotte) - both heard calling near the garden on separate evenings.
Cirl Bunting (Bruant zizi) - a male is almost permanently perched on the telephone wires outside our house.
Crested Tits (Mésange huppée) - seen daily tagging along with mixed flocks (including Goldcrest - Roitelet huppé)
Mistle Thrush (Grive draine) - a group of 5 individuals have been present at the entrance to the wood all week and then on 16th we surprised a flock of at least 15 in our neighbour's newly-ploughed field.
Nuthatches (Sittelle torchepot) - around in good numbers and very vocal at the moment.
Short-toed Treecreeper (Grimpereau des jardins) - in woods above the river.
Sandwich Terns (Sterne pierregarin) - seen from the woods flying low along the river calling loudly.
House Martin (Hirondelle de fenêtre) - seen from the same vantage point, a large flock swooping low over the prairie bordering the river.
Black Kite (Milan noir) - sightings becoming less frequent, but one flew low over the house on Saturday morning (16th).
Kingfisher (Martin-pêcheur) - 3 seen this week at two separate sites by lakes.
Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticole des joncs) - we hear his "sip-sip" call daily as he patrols his territory by the river.

Butterflies and moths seen this week include Sooty Copper (Cuivré fuligineux), Swallowtail (Machaon), Painted Lady (La Belle-Dame), Common Blue (Azuré commun), Holly Blue ( Azuré du nerprun), Wall (La Mégère), Meadow Brown (Myrtil), Gatekeeper (Amaryllis), Small Heath (Procris), Speckled Wood (Tircis), Small Copper (Cuivré commun), Brown Argus (Collier de Corail), Red Admiral (Vulcain), Large and Small White (Piéride du chou and Piéride de la rave), Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth (Sphinx Gazé), Oak Eggar (Minime à bandes jaunes) and the almost omni-present Jersey Tiger Moth (Ecaille chinée).

Damselflies -
White-legged (Agrion à larges pattes), Small Red (Agrion délicat), Common (Agrion à porte-coupe), Goblet-marked (Agrion à longs cercoides), Blue-tailed (Agrion élégant), Willow Emerald (Leste vert) and Beautiful and Banded Demoiselle (Caloptérix viérge and Caloptérix éclatante).

Dragonflies - Southern Darter (Sympétrum méridional), Ruddy Darter (S. rouge sange), Golden-ringed (Cordulégastre annelé) and Southern Hawker (Aeshne bleue) which has been present in the woods all week - we observed it catch a butterfly in flight and then take it high up into a pine tree to eat, sending all four wings floating down to where we were stood!

Other species of note -
Praying Mantis (Mante réligieuse) in the woods, Hare (lièvre) in the heart of the woods (second sighting in this location - they are more usually seen in the fields), Tree Frogs (Reinette), Roe Deer (Chevreuil) and Red Squirrel (Ecureuil).
White-legged damselfly Brittany
White-legged Damselfly
The French common name
literally means "fat-legged damselfly ", which is appropriate as one of the identification points for this species is the fact that its lower leg is fatter than the upper leg. A French guide referred to it as "le cycliste"!
Goblet-marked Damselfly
This was taken on the edge of the local woods, but has also been present in the garden.
Goblet-marked damselfly gites south brittany
Bird-watching holidays Brittany France
This male Cirl Bunting has been sitting on the telephone wire outside our house every day this week.
European Tree Frog
This was in fact a baby - hardly bigger than my big thumb nail. To give an idea of size it is sitting on the leaf of a raspberry bush !
Wildlife in Brittany France
Red Squirrel Brittany France
Red Squirrel in wood above the river.
Crested Tit (Mésange huppée)
Image taken 17th August.
These delightful little birds are around in very good numbers in our local woods and we see them daily.
It pays to learn to recognise their rich, trilling call.
Crested Tit South Brittany France

All good things ...... A French friend asked me to visit her large, mature garden in the village to see what species she had. The list ran to 12 species of butterfly and moth - including Green-veined White (Piéride du navet); Swallowtail (Machaon) - the third I have seen this week; Jersey Tiger moth (l'Ecaille chinée) and, the star of the show, a Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth (Le Sphinx Gazé). Having recorded this species on my buddleia once last year and again last month I am thrilled to have been able to observe it in her garden for over 30 minutes - camera clicking away.

Other highlights so far this week include very close sightings a flock of 8
Crested Tits (Mésange huppée) together with several Goldcrests (Roitelet huppé) in the wood and just above head height. Large numbers of Nuthatch (Sittelle torchepot). Great spotted and Green Woodpeckers (Pic épeiche and Pivert) in the woods and in the garden respectively ... and just this morning a Lesser-spotted (Pic épeichette) flew over as I hung out the washing. As I cycled back from my friends house yesterday afternoon a flock of House Sparrows (Moineau domestique) flew up from my neighbour's front garden, but still sitting on the lawn was a male Cirl Bunting (Bruant zizi) - a species which I still hear daily along the lanes competing with the singing Yellowhammers (Bruant Jaune).
Butterflies seen on the wing this week - Common Swallowtail; Brimstone; Large and Small White; Green-veined White, Red Admiral; Comma; Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper; Small Heath; Speckled Wood (brighter orange than the UK specimens); Wall Brown; Small Copper; Sooty Copper (a very bright, newly-emerged specimen); Holly Blue; Brown Argus; Mazarine Blue (marshes) and Common Blue.

Dragonfly and Damselflies recorded this week include Willow Emerald Damselfly (marshes), Ruddy Darter, Common Darter and Southern Hawker. We have not re-visited the site nearby where we recorded an amazing variety including White-legged Damselfly last month - see July 08 Nature Notes for a full list.

Eureeka !!! (again !)
At last I have succeeded in getting several good
photos of this rare species of day-flying moth.
Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth
(Le Sphinx Gazé)
To compare with the Hummingbird Hawkmoth go to the archives page and follow the link to July 08.
Nature Brittany France
Nature Brittany France
Female Great Green Bush-cricket
(La Grande Sauterelle Verte)
On standard playing card for size comparison.
I also filmed it as it jumped and flew a few feet into the vegetable plot, where I hope it will munch several pests!
Wasp Spider (female)
(L'Argiope frelon)
This spider, which is also found in the UK, was found in the woods at the edge of a field of cows.
Nature Brittany France
Click here to see other nature photos taken in our garden and locally

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.