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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

December , 2007
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Wk 1

Wet, windy warm! (Before continuing, an apology for the lack of Nature Notes for the last week of November - due to stress over my Offsted-equivalent inspection. Naturally, I passed with flying colours and am now officially a qualified English Teacher! So normal service can now resume.)
The highlight of the week has to be the LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER (PIC EPEICHETTE) which spent a good 20 minutes searching for food in the apple tree not far from the house. I got the scope on it to check - there may be a possibility of Middle-Spots here, but I have yet to find one. A very large Roe Deer gave Ficelle a run for her money in the woods until I got the whistle out, spoiling her fun! CATTLE EGRETS (HERON GARDE-BOEUFS) continue to be a regular sight in the nearby fields. We have taken a gamble and re-instated the bird feeder - I say a gamble, because of Harry the cat. The feeder is on a tall pole in the middle of the garden - that way Harry cannot hide ready to pounce and the birds will see him easily (after all, he is all white apart from his bushy tail!). So far, so good - we have had Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Robin and Great Tit on the feeder and Blackbird and Song Thrush below. A female BLACKCAP (Fauvette à tête noire) was busy feeding in the hedgerow yesterday. I spent my lunchbreak on Thursday watching a MARSH HARRIER (Busard des Roseaux) quartering a small pond and marsh near Penestin.
Lastly, numbers of FIELDFARE (Grive Litorne) are increasing - we saw a flock of over 40 in fields just north of here on Monday.

Wk 2

Well the temperature has definitely dropped ("dégringolé", as they say round here). But at least the sun is shining. Birds are now flocking to our feeder and, as hoped, Harry has very quickly learnt to ignore them - the feeder is placed in the open and so he is not able to sneak up on them. Chaffinches (Pinsons), Greenfinches (Verdiers), Goldfinches (Chardonnerets), Robins (Rougegorges), Blue and Great Tits (Mésanges bleues et charbonnières), Blackbirds (Merles), Song Thrushes (Grives musicienne), Redwings (Grive mauvis) and a Meadow Pipit (Pipit des prés) have all enjoyed our hospitality. Whilst the Fieldfare (Grives litorne) and Mistle Thrushes (Grives draine) have kept to the neighbouring field. The "local" flock of CATTLE EGRET (HERON GARDE-BOEUFS) reached 20+ and the Lapwing (Vanneau Huppé) flock numbered more than 70 individuals. A Red Squirrel (Ecureuil roux) scampered across the road behind my car on Monday. The highlight of the week, though, has to have been the group of 5 GREY PARTRIDGE (Perdrix grise) which also crossed the road just ahead of me on their way to Nivillac - presumably to see the impressive Christmas lights!

Wk 3 A heavy cold got in the way of any active birding during week 3. Birds continued to visit the feeder and a large flock of Chaffinch (Pinson) was busy feeding in the field to the right of the garden. Unfortunately, although I scrutinized the flock with my binoculars, I found no Bramblings (Pinson du nord) as I had at first hoped. Good numbers are being recorded in the UK according to Birdtrack a better year than last year and even than 2005 and as we recorded several individuals over quite a period in December 05 and January 06 it would follow that we stood a good chance of seeing some Brambling this winter. Highlight of the week:- a BARN OWL (Chouette Effraie) swooped in front of my car as I pulled into the driveway at around 6 pm on Thursday
Wk 4

An enormous flock of Lapwing (Vanneau Huppé) circled over a field near Nivillac on Wednesday (not Boxing Day here, but a normal working day!) there must have been well over 200 individuals. CATLE EGRETS (Héron Garde-boeufs) continue to feed in the fields, though in smaller numbers than last month. A very large flock of FIELDFARE (Grive litorne) flew over our heads whilst driving along the Nivillac road on Thursday.

Today (Saturday, 29 th) was a beautiful, sunny day and so we walked the dogs for 3 hours. Setting out from home we passed through woodland and followed the road parallel with the flood plains of the River Vilaine before cutting back up through another woodland and arriving home from the opposite direction (one of the many walks that we have put together for our gîte customers). Although I was disappointed not to see any Hen Harriers or deer, we did see a good variety of birds. Highlights included SHORT-TOED TREECREEPER (Grimpereau des Jardins), NUTHATCH (Sittelle torchepot), CRESTED TIT (Méssange huppé), REDWING (Grive mauvis), FIELDFARE (Grive litorne), numerous Jays (Geai des chênes), GOLDCREST (Roitelet huppé) and a raft of ducks which came in to (presumably) roost on the river mainly TUFTED DUCK (Fuligule morillon) although it was difficult to tell as we were by this time up in the woods again looking down to the river.


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.