The cold spell at the beginning of the month was coupled with a very dry atmosphere and lots of sun. We escaped the snow and ice that other parts of France suffered, which is very often the case in this micro-climate. In fact, the whole month has been relatively dry and sunny.
On the wildlife front we continue to enjoy the company of our flock of 15 Cattle Egrets (Héron Garde-boeufs) which is to be seen daily in the fields adjacent to our garden. A male Cirl Bunting (Bruant zizi) (presumably the same individual that I have heard singing away daily lately) was feeding in the garden today (31 st ) along with a large flock of Chaffinches (Pinson). A single Chiffchaff (Pouillot véloce) was busy scanning the hedgerow for food. Tawny and Barn Owls (Chouette houlotte and Effraie des clochers) have been vociferous in the early evenings and also as late as 8 am . One evening I heard a very strange call coming from trees at the bottom of the garden – research proved it to be a young male Tawny Owl (according to, my Wildsounds CD of Birdsong, which bills it as an “Unusual call” and it certainly was!).
On one windy and wet day we were not surprised to count record numbers of Buzzard (Buse variable) apparently “grounded” on various perches low to the ground – remarked upon by friends and family in the area too. Hunting in such conditions is very difficult for birds of prey, who have difficulty flying with wet feathers! A friend who lives about a mile away was thrilled to report a Crested Tit (Mésange huppée) feeding at her garden feeder. These lovely birds are common in the local woodland, but less so in gardens. The large mixed flocks feeding in the woods include Long-tailed, Great, Blue, Crested and Coal Tits (Mésange à longue queue, charbonnière, bleue, huppée and noire) as well as good numbers of Goldcrest (Roitelet huppée). A Firecrest (Roitelet à triple-bandeau) is regularly seen from the office window at home.
Lapwings (Vanneau huppée) are numerous as usual for winter months and the Starling (Etourneau) roost in La Roche-Bernard is still a spectacular event. We regularly count more than 10 Blackbirds (Merle) feeding on the lawn and Song Thrushes (Grive musicienne), Redwing (Grive mauves) and Fieldfare (Grive litorne) are ubiquitous.
A pair of Red-legged Partridge (Perdrix rouge) was feeding in a ploughed field at the end of our lane as I set off for work early on Thursday morning.
Finally, the local nature reserve has reported both Common Crane (Grue cendré) and Short-eared Owl (Hibou des marais) this month. Guess who missed out on both?!!!