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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
January, 2006
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New Year's Day 2006 A high of 10 degrees was reached with the sun shining for much of the day. We were quite concerned about our BRAMBLING female, which was not seen until late afternoon - but when she did appear she excelled herself and managed at last to land on the birdcake feeder.
Mon 2nd
A sunny, clear day with highs of 10 degrees again. We walked down to the plains by the River Vilaine and startled a Snipe. The female Brambling is still with the other finches in the garden. We saw our first new-born lamb of the season today whilst driving back from La Roche Bernard.
Tues 3rd A dry, sunny day with highs of 10 degrees. The lamb count is now up to 3. We are beginning to notice quite a lot of bird song in the early evening when we go outside to close the shutters, making our thoughts turn to the coming spring - maybe the warm temperatures are prompting the birds to claim a territory and a mate.
Wed 4th
Dull and damp is about as exciting as it got today on the weather front. However, we were treated to a good view of a Roe Deer in the adjacent field this morning on opening the shutters. We then counted over 70 Redwing on the lawn. The female Brambling is still hanging around the garden, much to our delight.
Thur 5th Dry and sunny, but we paid for that with lower temperatures. We counted over 15 greenfinches at the feeder today along with chaffinches, blue and great tits and "our " Brambling. We have heard it suggested that to feed the wild birds is to encourage the weaker individuals to survive and is, therefore, potentially detrimental in the long run - well, let us assure you that only the strongest-willed and more agile birds manage to get the benefit of our bird-cake - it is a real battlefield out there! It is, however, extremely important to site the feeders in an appropriate place, feed only good-quality food, not to over-stock feeders, to move them regularly and to keep them clean. We will soon be adding a page to the site on this very subject.
Friday 6th
A beautiful, sunny day, although we needed to wrap up warm for our walk. We had good views of Hen Harrier, Buzzard and Kestrel in the fields by the river. As we headed back home along the lane, parallel to the river, we came across 3 roe deer grazing. They were about 300 m from us, but very visible. They kept a close eye on us to, only deciding to head off when they were ready, several minutes later.
Sat 7th A fleeting glimpse of an attack along the hedgerow by a small bird of prey this morning - not quite right for a Sparrowhawk and, in any case, about the size of a large thrush ......? Our suspicion was confirmed later in the day, when the MERLIN helpfully re-appeared. Species number 73 for our garden list. It is not surprising that such a hunter was present - as we had a huge flock of House Sparrows present all day (estimated at over 200 individuals).
Sun 8th Foggy this morning. We were treated to a great display by a Sparrowhawk whilst eating our lunch - he swooped on the birdfeeder, scattering all the diners as well as clouds of other birds who were perched in the trees around the garden. He looked very dejected sat up on top of the feeder, empty clawed and soon gathered himself together, disappearing into the hedge. A few moments later he rather ambitiously tried to surprise a Magpie, which was feeding on the ground, wondering why he was alone! The Magpie dashed for cover and the Sparrowhawk perched openly in a tree. A few moments later the Magpie hopped through the branches to settle next to his would-be attacker. We don't know what was said, but the result was that the hawk decided to leave! Magpie 1 : Sparrowhawk 0
Mon 9th
A dull day with fog coming and going. There are now several large flocks of lapwing in the surrounding fields, always escorted by numerous gulls. A tawny owl was calling yesterday evening. I see from John Goodspeed's nature notes (from the Portsmouth area - see links page) that buzzards have been seen to be showing interest in nesting sites this week - this would tie in with our observations here, in that we have a pair of robins happily sharing the feeder and hear more and more bird song every day. Today's highlight was a male HEN HARRIER quartering the fields by the side of the Nivillac road.
Tues 10th Foggy and dull again. Continuing yesterdays theme of signs of spring - a pair of Magpies have been checking out last year's crows' nest in an oak tree today. A FIRECREST was busy searching for insects in the hedgerow.
Wed 11th Mum is out right now so I thought I would help and add todays note. I am Cheryl , "Hello". On my drive home from work this evening on the road between St Cry and La Belle Vilaine a Barn Owl flew straight towards my windscreen! I thought that he was going to hit my car but he managed to fly up and over just in time. I think Mum will be jealous.
Thurs 12th
The fog has lifted and today was mainly bright and warmer. The Firecrest is still around, but the Brambling has not been seen for a few days. A Kestrel appears to be spending more and more time around the garden and is showing a lot of interest in the same old nest that the Magpies have their eye on.
Fri 13th Foggy this morning, but brightened up later - high of 9 degrees. We have a very strangely-coloured young gull hanging around at the moment - will have to do some research. Good views of a Marsh Harrier over the fields down by the Vilaine River.
Sat 14th Dry but fairly dull. There is a huge population of House Sparrows here at La Belle Vilaine holiday cottages. Today Paul heard them chirping very loudly from the hedgerow as he walked round to his shed out of sight, but as soon as he appeared around the corner of the house there was instant silence!
Sun 15th
Warm for the time of year and sunny. We made the most of the good weather and set off down towards the river. The list of wildlife seen included: 3 roe deer, marsh harrier, hen harrier, buzzard, goldcrest and lesser- spotted woodpecker. We also had a fieldfare, several redwing and a yellowhammer in the garden.
Mon 16th A sunny day with a few showers this morning. A tawny owl was heard hooting last night. Today the Firecrest was again busy in the hedgerow.
Tues 17th Wet this morning, but brighter in the afternoon and warm. We walked the dogs around 5 pm and had good views of hen harrier (female), kestrel and buzzard - all being mobbed by the carrion crows. Our "garden" kestrel was perched by the old crow's nest in one of our oaks as the sun went down.
Wed 18th A dull but dry day. Over the last few days I have caught glimpses of a, yet-to-be-identified bird. Today it spent some time in the field behind our garden. All I can say about it at the moment is that it is bigger than a Herring Gull and is very slow in flight. Hopefully I shall see it again & if I cannot ID it I shall give a detailed description in a later entry!
Thurs 19th
Weather much the same as yesterday. The strange gull has a white head and neck, circular brown colouring around the eyes, a light, fudgy brown back (rather like a light, creamy, brown feral pigeon), a very dark (almost black) chest, belly and under-tail. In flight its wings have white tips and its tail is white with a black edge. Unfortunately, we have not seen it today. We did, however, have a HAWFINCH and a Pheasant.
Fri 20th The mystery gull was around again this morning - the tail is NOT forked (sorry!) and the legs are dark. We spent the day in Vannes where we saw a RED ADMIRAL flying around the buildings - it landed and was immediately attacked by a very large spider, but luckily flew away just in time! We also saw 3 Cattle Egret in a field by the dual-carriageway.
Sat 21st A fine, dry and sunny day. A CATTLE EGRET was in the field at the end of the garden this morning. This evening two Little Owls were calling loudly in the adjacent woodland.
Sun 22nd Some foggy patches interspersed with sunshine. We began the day with a dog-training session (See Dogs page for photos). With that, lesson-planning and a visit to the local bar we didn't have much time for wildlife watching. However, as we drove into the driveway here at La Belle Vilaine self-catering holiday gîtes, we surprised a deer in the headlights!
Mon 23rd
A sunny, if cold, day. On my way back from teaching English at La Roche Bernard this morning I came across a Buzzard, which was flying at car-window height along the grass verge. As I slowed to a stop, it landed right next to the car, folded its wings, looked calmly at me and away again - it then did a "double-take" and, realising that there was a human being in the car, looked startled and flew away. My Mum (who had come to "assist" with the teaching!) and I couldn't stop laughing for several minutes, as we have never before seen a "startled", wide-eyed look on the face of such an impressive bird - and certainly without the need for binoculars!
Tues 24th Weather as yesterday. During a walk along the River Vilaine, we had good views of a male HEN HARRIER. On her way home from work in Vannes this afternoon, Cheryl was convinced she saw a Great White Egret from the dual-carriageway. We have seen these in the Brière National Park before, but during summer, however, even with a fleeting glimpse she could not have mistaken this huge white bird. We saw a Red Admiral butterfly in Vannes last week and we have seen that they have also been sighted in the Portsmouth area, as have early Sandwich Terns.
Weds 25th Another dry, cold and sunny day - I think we may be in for a few more beautiful winter days like this. Whilst out walking with the dogs today we were treated to sightings of a BLACK WOODPECKER, 15 Tufted Ducks - both male & female, two Great Crested Grebes and our faithful male Hen Harrier.
Thurs 26th
Sunny and dry, but cold. We spent the afternoon walking in the Grande Brière Nature Reserve, the canals were frozen and, apart from a few Reed Buntings and a distant view of a bird of prey, the most exciting sighting was of a COYPU which was just re-entering its "den" (if that's the right word?) which was, in fact, a large pile of branches. On the journey back we saw a Sacred Ibis and a small flock of Cattle Egrets.
Fri 27th Weather as yesterday. We drove over to the Golfe du Morbihan. We saw huge numbers of various species including Pintail, Brent Goose, Shelduck, Knot, Ringed-Plover, Grey Plover, Redshank, Little Egret and Sacred Ibis. We found some disused salt marshes also, which may be an interesting place to visit during Spring.
Bird watching holidays  Morbihan, Brittany
Birdwatching holidays in Brittany, France
Sat 28th

The snow began around 11 am and just kept falling - by evening we had 2 and a half inches. Snow is quite rare in this neck of the woods. We did not see anything of our kestrel (not surprising) but we did have 3 Lapwings in the garden. If you have not checked-out the photo gallery lately please do so again as it now runs to 3 pages and includes photos taken today in the snow!

Sun 29th
The sun made short work of yesterday's snowfall. On the way to collect the bread from St. Cry this morning, we were surprised by a HARE, which ran accross the road right in front of us. Later a CATTLE EGRET flew very low over our garden.
Mon 30th Sunny and dry again. Between teaching and lesson-planning, I have had very little time to watch wildlife today - c'est la vie! Paul, however, did see two BARN OWLS which flew up from the trees, screeching loudly when he went outside to close the shutters.
Tues 31st Weather remained dry and sunny. There is an oak tree just outside our office window, here at La Belle Vilaine self-catering holiday gîtes and in the tree is quite a large, old nest. Today a bunch of House Sparrows were busily hopping in and out of this nest and looking underneath it too. At first I wondered if they were collecting twigs to make their own nests, but I felt it was too early and they didn't take anything away. Were they looking for food? I thought their main diet (when not feeding young) consisted of seeds, though. Any ideas?
 
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Self-catering, holiday cottages on the South Brittany/Loire Atlantique border in France.
Friendly family run gite accommodation where dogs are welcome.