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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 2009 - scroll down page for this month's 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.

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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 over 2 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.

A very busy month in the gites with mainly sunny, hot weather, especially during the latter half of the month. The moth-trapping events were very well received by all our guests details below. Circumstances with my health this summer have stopped us getting out and about as much as usual hence the lack of sightings. The usual birds would have been present in the marshes, for example the White Storks, Black-winged Stilts, Great White Egrets, Marsh Harrier, Bluethroat . Nearer to home I haven't seen a Cirl Bunting for several weeks again unusual and no doubt due to the fact that I have only rarely left the house, although in previous summers they have been regulars to the garden. White Admirals are usually around in good numbers during August in the woods the fact that we have not seen any is down to the fact that we haven't walked up there.
Nature South Brittany self catering holiday accommodation
Our moth-trapping events are always very popular - people just do not realise how many beautiful moths are out there - they are not all brown and they do not all destroy your clothes!

How it works- I set my trap as the sun sets. The following morning I get up before dawn and check the trap. Any interesting species are saved, safely and humanely for the guests to see after breakfast. We then set the moths free.

Birds

Corncrake (Râle des genêts) – An elusive star of the show this month. At first, when I heard it calling, I thought there must be a call given by another bird, a Red-legged Partridge for example, that is similar to the Corncrake – but extensive research leaves me with only one possibility. So Corncrake joins the list of our garden birds!!!!! It called several times a day, every day, for 3 weeks from the hedgerow on the left boundary of our garden. One afternoon I stationed myself in the field the other side of our hedgerow for 30 minutes trying to see the culprit, but to no avail. One thing that worried me, though, is that the crop of barley in the field was harvested during this period – but according to the books corncrakes breed in May and June, so I presume no young were harmed in the harvest. A migratory species, which breeds in this area, there is no reason to think that my identification is incorrect – and nothing else calls like a corncrake. But still, I would have liked to have seen it!
Black Kites (Milan noir) – daily sightings over the garden (very low, circling above the neighbouring fields looking for carion) continued to mid-month then they became less frequent. They will, no doubt, still be present in the marshes.
Cattle Egrets (Héron garde-boeuf) - Although we were in the height of summer, 2 were in the field at the end of the garden on the 14th. These super birds winter here in large numbers, but leave to breed elsewhere.
Sparrows (Moineau domestique) – with numbers swelled by a good breeding season the flock in our garden now numbers over 50 individuals. As we leave a large area to grow wild, they find plenty of weed seeds to feed upon.
Starlings (Etourneau sansonnette) – large flocks of juveniles, now in their semi-adult plumage (a bizarre mix, with black, spotted bodies and brown heads and necks) are still present in the garden. They enjoy bathing in our pond.
Swifts (Martinet noir) – many were seen passing over our garden up to the middle of the month, but are now absent.
Swallows (Hirondelle rustique) – On several evenings we have had the impression that the sky was filled with swallows.
Pied Wagtails (Bergeronette gris) – or is that White Wagtail? According to the books we only have Whites here, but it beats me how to tell the difference! We have a few individuals here all year, but from around the 20th we have had flocks of up to 20 individuals, mainly juveniles, feeding on the grass.
Spotted Flycatchers (Gobemouches gris) – having only regained my normal fitness level towards the end of the month, I hadn’t visited the woods since the end of June. I was happy to see that there was again a family of Spotted Flycatchers present at the entrance to the woods during the last week.
Little Owl (Chevêche d'Athéna) – we enjoyed close views of a Little Owl one evening as we walked through the hamlet.
Turtle Doves (Tourterelle de bois) – still present to mid-month.
White Storks (Cygogne blanche) – we spotted a new nest north of the usual colony. The nests were vacant when we passed by them on 30th.

Butterflies

On the wing this month in the garden (unless stated otherwise):

Clouded Yellows (le Souci) – good numbers seen this year with daily sightings.
Small Copper (le Cuivre commun)
Short-tailed Blue (L'Azuré du Trèfle)
Camberwell Beauty (le Morio) – seen in our friend Charlotte’s garden (just down the road)
Swallowtail (le Machaon) – again good numbers with almost daily sightings on our buddleia.
Sooty Copper (le Cuivré fulgineux)
Meadow Brown (le Myrtil) - numbers down on last year.
Gatekeeper (l’Amyrillis)
Wall (le Mégère)
Speckled Wood (le Tircis) – numbers down considerably on other years.
Small Heath (le Procris) – good numbers
Common Blue (Azuré commun) – numbers down
Brown Argus (Collier de corail) – numbers down
Holly Blue (Azuré du nerprun) – catastrophic decline in numbers!
Red Admiral (le Vulcain)
Comma (Robert le diable)
Peacock (le Paon du jour) – caterpillars early in the month, then fresh adults later.

Moths

The first two weeks were difficult – wet, cool and windy. I became despondent! Getting up at the crack of dawn to a very poor catch is no joke for someone who is not a natural early riser! However, even on those days I managed to record new species to the garden. As the month progressed we had better luck. I was heartened by the enthusiasm of our guests – especially the children, who all enjoyed handling the moths and setting them free in the undergrowth. Favourites were species like Oak Eggar, Pine-tree Lappet, Drinker, Buff-tip, Jersey, Garden and Ruby Tigers and, of course the Hawkmoths (Elephant, Eyed and Convovulous), as they are quite “trusting” when handled, unlike the flighty carpets! I will get around to up-dating the garden list soon (we have surpassed the 200 species mark this month). Highlights included:

Convovulous Hawk-moth – The star of the show this month.
Silver-striped Hawk-moth – found in a bedroom near Dinan – no specialist equipment, typical!
Gypsy Moth (Le Bombyx disparate) – by day road by woods (4th ) and 4 in trap night of 4th. This was followed by others in the trap later in the month. A “nuisance” species, but very nice to look at!
Pine Hawk-moth larva – found in our friend, Charlotte’s garden (3rd)
Jersey Tiger (Ecaille chinée) – The first this year was seen by day on 1st Aug. The peak catch by night reached 10 individuals, with 6 or more the norm.
Garden Tiger - Good numbers in the trap each time and always a favourite with visitors.
Burnet Companion - found by day in the garden on the 7th
Tawny-barred Angle – another species we found by day in the garden.
Bramble Shoot (June)
Little Emerald
Sharp-angled Peacock
Scarce Vapourer
Canary Shouldered Thorn – unfortunately not caught in our garden, but nearby.
Cream-bordered Green Pea
Herald
Scorched Carpet
Scorched Wing
True Lovers’ Knot
Black V - caught on 2 nights (2-3 individuals each time) seen also last year.

This stunning (and large) moth was found in a friend's bedroom near Dinan one morning this month!

A migratory species - the Silver-striped Hawkmoth
Silver-striped Hawkmoth gites south Brittany holidays
Nature Holidays France South Brittany Loire Atlantique
True Lovers' Knot - another new species for the garden list this month - heading to our 210 species mark.
Another migrant - a whopper!
This Convolvulous Hawkmoth was another first for our garden this month.
Convolvulous Moth-trapping holidays South Brittany and Loire Atlantique
Garden Tiger moth trapping on holiday in Brittany and Loire Atlantique
Always a favourite with the visitors - the Garden Tiger is a very trusting moth, which will sit patiently on the finger ready for release.

It is also worth remembering to watch where you put your feet when checking the trap, as some moths (White Ermin and Garden Tiger especially) will settle on the grass.
The Jersey Tiger flies by day, but is still attracted by the light of the trap. On one occasion this month I had 10 individuals in the trap.
Jersey Tiger gites south Brittany
Pine Hawkmoth caterpillar gites south Brittany
This Pine Hawkmoth caterpillar was found in a friend's garden in a nearby village.

This is a species that is on our garden list.

Dragonflies

The pond continued to attract interesting species, including:

Small Red D
Azure D
Emperor D
Common Blue-tail – to add to Scarce Blue-tailed on our garden list. Plus a purple form caught at a nearby pond along with:.
Beautiful and Banded Demoiselle
Goblet-marked Damselfly
Golden Ringed Dragonfly
Orange White-legged Damselfly – a new species for us, seen at the same spot.

Banded Demoiselle self catering nature holidays Brittany
A Banded Demoiselle - photographed this month at a pond just a few minutes from La Belle Vilaine.
A Beautfiful Demoiselle - photographed the same day at the same spot
Beautiful Demoiselle sef-catering holidays nature South Brittany
Orange White-legged Damselfly gites south Brittany
Orange White-legged Damselfly
photographed at the same spot - again! A new species for us - note the blue eyes and orange body.
Mammals

Another new species for our garden list a weasel was unfortunately only added due to a fatality – probably down to our cat Harry, although surprising, as I would have thought it would have been a match for any cat.
We commissioned our good friend (and Elaine and Cheryl's agility instructor) Michelle Johnston to make us this great sign for the entrance to our property.
Michelle will make a pottery model of any animal, to order.
Click here to go to our links page and follow the link to her site
Self-catering birdwatching holidays in South Brittany and Loire, France
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.