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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
July 2008
To return to archives page CLICK HERE

La Belle Vilaine plant list - CLICK HERE .

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

NEW!! Possibility of Tuesday changeovers - trial period for cheaper ferry crossings. Contact us.

Nest Update Of the 10 White Stork active nests that we located earlier in the season only 3 still had occupants when we visited on Wednesday (30th) - presumably the young ready to fledge / or young that have fledged but return to the nest to rest. Two of the nests had 2 occupants and the third had 3.

Our Turtle Doves nesting in the garden have 2 large, downy chicks at the moment - we don't like to disturb them for long and so looked with the binoculars from a distance once the parents have left them to look for food.

We have been watching a Sparrowhawk pair and a pair of Buzzards nesting in the woods near our house - the young have now fledged. The Sparrowhawk family are still in the vicinity as we regularly hear their calls.
Are these all "chicks" or parent + 2 or parents + 1
Hard to tell at this late stage in their development.
This nest is directly above a layby on a very busy road - but was obviously a success!
Birdwatching holidays Brittany France
Week 4

On Monday evening we set the moth trap overnight. The catch was impressive with around 20 species :

Goat Moth

Le Cossus gâte-bois


Swallow Prominent

La Porcelaine


La Buveuse



Feuille-morte du Chêne


Le Volant doré


Gold Spot

La Riche

Yellow-tail Tussock

La Queue d'or


Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing



Jersey Tiger

L'Ecaille Chinée


Garden Tiger

L'Ecaille martre

Scarce Footman

Manteau à tête jaune




Lunar Thorn

Le Croissant


Dusky Thorn

L'Ennomos du frêne

Black Arches

La Nonne


Peppered Moth

La Phalène poivrée

Clouded Border

La Marginée


Flame Shoulder

Le Cordon blanc

Buff Ermine

L'Ecaille lièvre



La Livrée

We had one or two other species (possible Willow Beauty and another Footman species). As our garden list for moths is growing I have decided to separate it from the bird and butterfly lists. Click here to see the full list. All the species were photographed but I have chosen just a few favourites to illustrate this page.

Also this week we came across a Blood-vein moth in the woods.

On Thursday afternoon I joined a guided walk led by a naturalist from Bretagne Vivante. The walk centred around an area just 5 minutes drive (or a good walk!) from home. Among the more interesting butterflies spotted were Purple Emperor (Le Grand Mars changeant) and White Admiral (Le Petit Sylvain). We saw several species of dragonfly and damselfly, all expertly netted and handled by our guide : Scarce Chaser (Libellule fauve); Keeled Skimmer (L'Orthetrum bleuisant); Yellow-spotted Emerald ( Somatochlora flavomaculata) or Cordulie à taches jaunes; Common Darter (Sympétrum strié); Ruddy Darter (Sympétrum rouge sang); Southern Darter (not sure if correct English name, but seems to have been adopted by some websites) The French use the latin name Sympetrum meridionale ; Beautiful and Banded Demoiselle (Caloptéryx viérge and éclatante respectively); Large and Small Red Damselfly (Corps de feu and Agrion délicat); White-legged Damselfly (Agrion à larges pattes); Common Damselfly (Agrion à porte-coupe); Azure Damselfly (Agrion jouvencelle); Southern Damselfly (Agrion mercure) and Green Emerald Damselfly (Leste vert).

Goat Moth
(Le Cossus gâte-bois)
This very large moth had us stumped for a while. I found him on the wall of the house at 6 am, a few yards from the moth trap.
Lappet Moth
The French name seems more appropriate -
Feuille-morte du Chêne
(Dead Oak leaf)
Nature Brittany
Nature Brittany
Drinker (Buveuse)
What a cutie! He reminds me of a hedgehog!
Week 3

Great excitement as we had a Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth (Le Sphinx Gazé) hovering around our buddleia today (Bastille Day). He only stayed or a couple of minutes and the wind made it impossible for the camera to focus. We saw this moth on the same plant last August. Other butterflies present on the plant were Brimstone (Citron) male and female, Comma (Robert le diable), Peacock (Paon du jour), Red Admiral (Vulcain), Large White (Piéride du chou), Small White (Piéride de la rave), Meadow Brown (Myrtil) and Gatekeeper (Amaryllis) all in good numbers. There was also a Purple Hairstreak (La Thécla du Chêne). A Vapourer Moth (l'Etoilée) came to the office window and landed briefly before flying on to continue his search for the flightless female.

After lunch we set off on our bikes and rode down to the river and along a path all the way to Pont de Cran - about a 15 km round trip. Along the way we had a
Swallowtail (le Machaon) as well as good views of hunting Black Kites (Milan noir), Marsh Harrier (Busard des rosseaux), Kestrel (Faucon crecerelle) as well as being serenaded by Skylarks (Allouette) and Fan-tailed Warblers (Cisticole des joncs), Turtle Doves (Tourterelle des bois) and a Yellowhammer (Bruant jaune).

We put the moth trap out in the evening and on Tuesday morning we had the following moths -

Drinker (La Buveuse); Buff Ermine (L'Ecaille Lièvre); Buff Tip (La Bucéphale); The Lackey (La Livrée); Scarce Footman (Manteau à tête jaune/La Lithosie aplatie) and a Scalloped Hook-tip (La Lacertine).

Later, an afternoon trip to a local garden centre brought us another Swallowtail butterfly(Machaon) (rather stupidly trying to escape by the perspex roof and, thus, risking getting caught in the spiders' webs) and our first sighting this year of a Hummingbird Hawkmoth (le Morio-Sphinx) behaving much more sensibly as it hovered around the flowers.

Great excitement on Wednesday afternoon with yet another new butterfly species to add to our garden list - a Short-tailed Blue (l'Azuré du Trèfle) decided to join me as I was gardening. This species is only seen as an extremely rare migrant in the UK, but breeds here in northern France. Whilst taking its photo I noticed an old favourite of ours - a Brown Argus (Collier de corail) joined us.

Highlights later during the week were:-

Woodlark (Alouette lulu) - singing in the wood;
Hoopoes (Huppe fasciée) - daily sightings in and around the garden;
Swallowtail Butterfly (Machaon) - feeding on our buddleia (Saturday morning);
Jersey Tigermoth (Ecaille chinée) - in hedgerow along the lane;
Black Kites (Milan noir) - daily sightings flying low over the garden and also 3 individuals calling and circling over the wood;
Cinnabar Moth caterpillar (Ecaille de Séneçon) - found wandering across our drive, we transported it to a clump of Ragwort and a few days later it had doubled in size (the caterpillar, not the ragwort!);
Crested Tits (Mésange huppée) - daily sightings in the wood;
Nuthatch (Sittelle torchepot) - juvenile in the wood;
Hare (lièvre) - in the field at the end of the lane;
Green Woodpeckers (Pivert) - adults with fledglings;
Cirl Buntings (Bruant zizi) - calling in wood and along the lane;
Chiffchaffs (Pouillot véloce) - some individuals still singing.

Butterfly species present in addition to those already mentioned this week: - Wall Butterfly (Megère); Small Copper (Cuivré commun); Large Skipper (Sylvaine) and Small Skipper (l'Hespérie de la Houque).

We are so lucky to have such amazing wildlife in our
own garden!
Wildlife Brittany
Hummingbird Hawkmoth
Our buddleia is permanently awash with tens of butterflies (and moths) of several species.
Photo taken Thursday 17th July.
Short-tailed Blue
(l'Azuré du Trèfle)
The two "tails" are visible on the lower part of the
hind-wing. The upper-wing colour was a stunning blue.
Butterflies Brittany
Nature Brittany
Brown Argus
(Collier de corail)
Scalloped Hook-tip
(La Lacertine)
Moth trapping Brittany France
Self-catering wildlife holidays Brittany
Buff Tip
(La Bucéphale)
This amazing moth has the ultimate in camouflage -
of which he was so sure that he stayed happily
clinging to the same tree for the rest of the day and
into the evening! The very fact that he was still there, uneaten, is the proof of the pudding!
Scarce Footman
(Manteau à tête jaune/La Lithosie aplatie)
Nature gites south Brittany
Nature gites south Brittany
Brimstone (Citron) male
The female underwing is very similar but he is
bright yellow and she is white. To tell the female
from other whites, the best thing is to wait until she lands and look for the tell-tale shaping to the wings.
Nature in Brittany
Wildlife in Brittany

This beautiful, vividly-coloured butterfly is named for
the punctuation mark on the underwing -
The Comma.
In French, however, it is Robert le diable -
"Robert the Devil"!
Butterflies of Brittany
This Purple Hairstreak (Thécla du Chêne)
was not only shabby himself, but chose a shabby flower too!
This Small Skipper (l'Hespérie de la Houque) really
was miniscule!
He led me a merry dance around the garden on
Sunday evening (13th).
Self-catering wildlife holidays France Brittany
Week 2

The weather has put paid to any decent photography so far this month and the wildlife has been sheltering, as we have been. However, we have managed to see one or two things of interest:

Little Owl (Chevêche d'Athéna) - we were very excited to hear one calling at about 11 pm on Tuesday evening as we were walking the dogs. It was in a barn opposite our house. This is a species that was very frequent here until this year;
Black Kites (Milan noir)- a pair calling and soaring above the woods;
Cirl Buntings (Bruant zizi) - several males calling along the lanes and in the woods;
Fan-tailed Warblers (Cisticole des joncs) - calling above the reedbeds along the lane by the river;
Turtle Doves (Tourterelle des bois) - calling everywhere, including chez nous;
Swallows (Hirondelle rustique) and Swifts (Martinet noir) - very large flocks flying low over the garden and neighbouring fields. The Swallows often landing on the house and in the trees. There were many juveniles among the flock.
Red Squirrel - feeding high in a pine tree overlooking the river;
White Admiral (Petit Sylvain);
Marbled White (Demi deuil);
Small Copper (Cuivré commun);
Southern Hawker Dragonfly (l'Aeshne bleue);

I think the French ought to re-think their "common" names for dragonflies! They don't exactly trip of the tongue.

Birdwatching in Brittany
This little chap was trying to blend into the vegitation.
I think it's a juvenile Blackcap.
Photo taken Sunday 13 July
Southern Hawker
(L'Aeshne bleue)
Nature Brittany France
Southern Hawker
Week 1
Highlights in and around our garden this week :

Nightjar (Engoulevent d'Europe) churring in the woods during a late evening stroll with the dogs.
Second-generation Map Butterfly (La Carte géographique) - first second-generation seen this year.
Crested Tits (Mésange huppée) - heard and seen every day in the woods.
Black Kites (Milan noir) - circling over the garden on several days - three together on one day, with a pair of Buzzards (Buse variable) circling not far from them. One passing through as I type.
Buzzard nest - still occupied, we assume this is an almost fully-grown chick as we observed another bird bringing in food and it appeared substantially smaller.
Hoopoe (Huppe fasciée) - flew through the garden as we ate lunch on the patio.
Melodious Warblers (Hippolais polyglotte) - several still singing.
Starlings (Etourneau sansonette) - very large flocks of juveniles now present.
Swallows (Hirondelle rustique) - seem to be less numerous than other years.
A very large mixed flock of juvenile tits (mainly Long-tailed) passed through, moving through the bushes of the hedgerow along the lane.
Chiffchaff (Pouillot véloce) - many individuals still singing, one of which we were persuaded was a juvenile as it just couldn't seem to get its chiffs and chaffs in the right order or rhythm!
Heart and Dart moth (La Double Tache) - spent the day resting on the window sill.

Every day as we wak the dogs through the woods we are literally walking through clouds of Meadow Brown (Myrtil) butterflies and immature dragonflies. There are also still good numbers of Marbled Whites (Demi deuil) and Gatekeepers (Amaryllis) have been around for about 10 days now.
Nature Brittany France
Gatekeeper (Amarylis)
Cheryl took this, but didn't see the grasshopper
until she put the image onto the computer later!

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.