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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

June 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.

Flaming June 2009 saw temperatures soaring into the high 30’s on several days. No need to mow the lawn towards the end of the month, but the pond-level dropped surprisingly! A very busy month work-wise for me (end of school year exams and appraisals – yawn, yawn!), keeping me away from the wildlife more than I would have liked. Luckily, our guests have been keeping the sightings pouring in.

Highlights of the month –

Birds

Quail (Caille) – calling on several days from the cover of the crops in the field adjoining our garden. “Wet my lips, wet my lips”
Water Rail (Poule d’eau) – heard calling in the marshland along the Vilaine river
Little Owl (Chevêche d'Athéna) – we were delighted to watch one searching for food in our lawn one evening. “He” came very close to the house and also used the agility obstacles as perches!
Turtle Dove (Tourterelle des bois) - stil busy nesting in the garden and serenading us.
Black Kite (Milan noir) versus Kestrel (Faucon creserelle) – a drama was played-out over our house mid-month by these birds. The little chap won the day and the Kite flew on, leaving the little victor to settle back into a tree to recover!
Hen Harrier (Busard St. Martin) – Several sightings during the month in the surrounding countryside.
Hoopoe (Huppe fasciée) – Several sightings of these stunning birds this month. They have also been very vocal.
Cuckoos (Coucou gris) – still calling well into the month.
White Storks (Cygogne blanche) - Our guests enjoyed good views of the chicks and parents.
Black-winged Stilts (Echasse blanche) – around in good numbers in the marshes.
Spoonbills (Spatule blanche) – another species our guests have encountered in the marshes.
Bluethroat (Gorgebleue à mirroir) – good views of this stunning bird seen by myself and guests at 2 separate locations on different days this month.
Marsh Harrier (Busard des roseaux) – again, good numbers in the marshes and along the river here.
Woodlark (Alouette lulu) – one of my all-time favourite songsters has been heard near the garden on several days.
Tree Pipit (Pipit des arbres) – One seen, on 2 consecutive days, singing from its perch on a telephone wire near home.
Whitethroat (Fauvette grisette) – Families busy in the hedgerows.
Yellowhammer (Bruant jaune) – heard singing on several days (making a change from the Cirl Buntings!)
Starlings (Etourneau sansonnette) – good-sized flocks of juveniles patrol the garden and local fields.

Butterflies

The star of the show has to be the Lesser Purple Emperor (Le Petit Mars changeant) – a new species for me and, therefore, for the garden list. I had the opportunity to watch it going about its business for about 15 minutes and got a couple of photos. (see below).

The Painted Lady (Belle Dame) invasion ended earlier in the month. But freshly-emerged individuals began turning up in the garden during the last week, with counts of 7 at a time – the offspring of butterflies that may have already gone on to reach the UK.

Black-veined White (Le Gazé) – are still on the wing in the area.

In the marshes, during the last week of the month our guests also had Camberwell Beauty (Morio) and Map (Carte géographique).

Some of the other species on the wing in the garden this month included :

Swallowtail (Machaon)
Marbled White (Demi-deuil) – around in very good numbers
Clouded Yellow (Souci) – seen on several days in the garden and elsewhere.
Large Skipper (Sylvaine)
Small Skipper (l'Hespérie de la Houque)
Brimstone (Citron)
Peacock (Paon du jour)
Comma (Robert le diable)
Small Heath (Procris)
Green-veined White (Piéride du navet)
Meadow Brown (Myrtil)
Orange Tip (Aurore printanière)

Lesser Purple Emperor wildlife holidays Brittany
This Lesser Purple Emperor was a new species for me and for our garden.
At first I thought it to be a Purple Emperor, which would have been nice, but the photos revealed an extra set of "eyes" on the upper-wings - so an even more exciting species than I had thought!
Lesser Purple Emperors are absent from the UK.
Lesser Purple Emperor wildlife holidays Brittany

Moths

Where do I begin? Our moth trap is proving to be worth its weight in gold! Our garden list has now passed the 180 species mark (conservative estimate!). We were fortunate to have our old (not meant in that way!) friends Adrian Wander and his partner Kathy back for a second (but not last!) visit. Adrian set up his Robinson trap during the last week of the month and had over 80 species on the first night alone! The Robinson has the same 125 MV bulb, as our Skinner trap, but is more effective at containing the moths caught. If you are interested in obtaining a trap, then go to our links page for details of our suppliers. Of course, Adrian is also more effective at identifying the species caught !!!

The highlights were many this month, but the star of the show is undoubtedly – The Passenger (Le Passagère). A migrant species and only recorded in the UK on a handful of occasions. No photo, as I was in hospital and missed all the excitement when Adrian found it in his trap!

Mid-month I set our trap up for guests and, with their help, identified over 40 species. A very convivial morning spent in the sunshine armed with moth guides – thanks Val and Billy for your great enthusiasm and good humour! We added another 13 species to the list. Several smaller species were re-grouped and now known as "Billy Moths" (we gave him the job of scouring through the pages - a job he did very well!)

A few nights later I set the trap up in our friend Charlotte’s garden (about 1 km from us) and we identified 37 species, 20 of which were new for her garden list, which I began for her last year.

During the day we have observed Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Five-spot Burnet and Speckled Yellow in the garden.

I will up-date the garden moth list on this site asap, but here are a few of the many species surveyed :

Tawny Prominent, Fox Moth (at Cheryl’s house), The Latin, Diamond-backed, Orange Moth, Puss Moth, Leopard Moth, Goat Moth, Eyed Hawkmoth, Elephant Hawkmoth, Small Elephant Hawkmoth, Striped Hawkmoth, Pine Hawkmoth, European Corn Borer, Blotched Emerald, Bordered White, Cream-spot Tiger, Rosy Footman, Scarce Merveille du Jour, Essex Emerald, Orache, Swallowtailed ……………

Blotched Emerald nature Brittany holidays France
Blotched Emerald
Puss Moth
Puss Moth nature Brittany holidays France
Cream-spot Tiger Moth nature Brittany holidays France
Cream-spot Tiger
Tawny Prominent
Tawny Prominent nature Brittany holidays France
Striped Hawkmoth nature Brittany holidays France
Striped Hawkmoth

Dragonflies

Our new garden pond is also proving its worth. Already teeming with life (Diving Beetles, Water Boatmen, etc.) during the first months last autumn, it is now attracting very large numbers of Azure and Small Blue-tailed Damselfly (Agrion jouvencelle and Agrion nain). The Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellule déprimée) male continues to patrol without taking a break – “his” partner having laid eggs last month; he has now been observed chasing a female off! I wonder if it is a rival male’s partner?

A new species to the pond this month was the stunningly-dainty Beautiful Demoiselle (.

But the star of the show this month is the Emperor Dragonfly (Anax empereur) pair, which has been busy breeding and ovipositing. Even the plucky Broad-bodied Chaser male leaves them to get on with their business, only very occasionally squaring-up to them (with little effect!).

Emperor Dragonfly at our garden pond
Emperor Dragonfly nature Brittany holidays France
Azure Damselfly nature Brittany holidays France
Azure Damselflies egg-laying in tandem into our garden pond.
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.