Self-Catering Holiday Gite Accommodation South Brittany France

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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
June 2008
New user-friendly archive system - Easy access to all previous Nature Notes dating back to November 2005 - 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

Birdwatching holidays in South Brittany and Loire Atlantique. 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 nearby now feeding chicks - see latest photos below in May 08 Notes.
Moth trapping evenings for our guests here at La Belle Vilaine.

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

Week 4
EUREEKA!!! At last a photo of a Crested Tit (Mésange huppée). OK it isn't brilliant, but now that they have begun using the feeder we will have plenty of other opportunities to get closer to these fantastic birds. Cresteds are present all year all around us and we have become very adept at identifying their trilling call. Back in February we put up nest boxes and feeders for both birds and Red Squirrels in a friend's private woodland. Four months later and we, at last, have seen our first evidence of any birds feeding - the feeder remained frustratingly full every time we visited. But the Cresteds have now begun using it - they continued to come to feed whilst I watched (with the dogs) just a few feet away.
Other news so far this week - a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pic épeiche) also in our friend's wood. Woodlarks (Allouette lulu), Tree Pipits (Pipit des arbres), Cirl Buntings (Bruant zizi), Yellowhammers (Bruant jaune), Turtle Doves (Tourterelle des bois) and Chiffchaffs (Pouillot véloce) continue to sing in the fields/woods/hedgerows around our garden. I disturbed a male Cuckoo (Coucou gris) on Sunday evening as I walked down the garden just before nightfall - he flew out from one Oak tree into another and then cuckooed rather crossly (it seemed!), so I took the hint and went back inside to leave him to roost in peace. Whilst walking the dogs one afternoon we saw 2 Hoopoes (Huppe fasciée)in the nearby woods.
All the butterflies mentioned so far this month are still present plus a stunning newly-emerged Peacock (Paon du jour).

Stop Press! - Just after up-loading the above (Friday 27th) we took the dogs for a walk. In th woods we went slightly off-route to check-out a Buzzard nest that we have been convinced was in use, but not wanting to disturb the proceedings we have kept away for a while. Sure enough, there was a chick, which was almost large enough to fledge. To our delight one of the parents arrived and passed some food to the chick as we watched from a safe distance, hidden from their view. What a treat!

This morning I attended a surprise party to say goodbye to a retiring teacher at one of the schools where I teach. As the speeches drew to a close and just as the retiree was about to speak there was a sudden flurry of wings and a flock of about 40 Jackdaws (Coucas des tours) errupted from their nests in the bell tower of the church and performed a very noisy lap of honour above the playground. Everyone gazed in awe and then burst into spontaneous applause - it was as impressive as any Red Arrows display! It was even more exciting for me, as I have been closely watching the colony every Thursday when I teach at that school and it was my last visit there until I start again in September. What the rest of the well-wishers did not see was the Black Kite (Milan noir) being mobbed by a one or two members of the colony a few moments before.
Birdwatching holidays South Brittany France
Crested Tit (Mésange huppée)
at last using the feeder we put in the woods.
Week 3
The Crested Tits (Mésange huppée) continue to illude my efforts to photograph them - they flit around at break-neck speed right at the top of the very tall pines. Still it is nice to see them regularly again after a lull of about a month. I heard two Woodlarks (Allouette lulu) singing as I crossed the local school's playground on Friday. We continue to hear Cuckoos (Coucou gris) calling, but only once or twice every few days.
Meadow Brown (Myrtil) are by far and away the most numerous butterfly this month - they are literally everywhere. Otherwise Marbled White (Demil deuil), Red and White Admiral (Vulcain and Petit Slyvain) and Small Heath (Procris) continue to be present in good numbers. To add to this month's list are Black-veined White (le Gazé), Large Skipper, Small/Essex Skipper (judge for yourself - photos below) and Comma (Robert-le-Diable).
We put the moth-trap out yeserday evening and this morning (Sun 22) we were excited to find not only Poplar Hawkmoth (le Sphinx du Peuplier) - photo May Nature Notes, but also an impressive Privet Hawkmoth (Sphinx du Troène) amongst our catch. There was also a very pretty yellow Swallowtailed Moth (la Phalène du Sureau), but this was more awake than me at 5.30 am and flew off before I could catch it! Other moths which visited our trap were White Ermine (L'Ecaille tigrée), Buff Ermine (L'Ecaille Lièvre), Buff Arches (l'Agate), Four-spotted Footman (pair) (la Lithosie quadrille), Lackey (La Livrée) and Small Magpie (see photo).
Nature in Brittany

Privet Hawkmoth
(Sphinx du Troène)
Actual size - approx 50 mm
Nature in Brittany

Small Magpie moth
(la Pyrale de l'Ortie)
Actual size - approx 25 mm
Nature in Brittany
I took this shot on Saturday along the lane. Not sure what the fly is doing, but it seemed as interested in this Essex(female Small?) Skipper as I was.
French for Small is "l'Hespérie de la Houque" and Essex is "l'Hespérie du Dactyle"

Wildlife in south Brittany

Large Skipper
(la Sylvaine)

Wildlife in south Brittany

Taken by Cheryl this beautiful shot shows the underwing of the Marbled White

Wildlife in south Brittany

Marbled White.

This butterfly is present in large numbers at the moment in the garden and surrounding hedgerows.
Its French common name "Demi-Deuil" means "Half-mourning".

Whiskered Tern (Guifette moustac)
One of several hundred now nesting in the nearby marshes.
Birdwatching holidays Brittany
Week 2
Another new species identified on Tuesday - a Woodlark (Allouette lulu). It was singing its beautiful, descending, flutey song in the woods just two fields away from our garden. We identified it thanks to the ipod which I always carry and which has hundreds of bird songs and video footage saved onto it. We returned again today (Thursday 12th) and he was still around, although we have yet to see him. Also had a very large hare (lièvre) on the path by the woods. The Hoopoes (Huppe fasciée) are still around, as is the family of Whitethroat (Fauvette grisette), Yellowhammers and Cirl Buntings (Bruant jaune and zizi), Turtle Doves (Tourterelle des bois), Cuckoos (Coucou gris) - still calling and Melodious Warbler (Hypolais polyglotte). As well as 4 Marbled White (Demi deuil) butterflies, there was a White Admiral (Petit Sylvain) looking slightly shabby and we also found a Cinnabar moth (Ecaille du Séneçon) and a Black-tailed Skimmer dragonfly (Orthetrum réticulé). A Barn Owl (Chouette effraie) flew past me as I drove home late on Wednesday evening.
Whilst walking the dogs down through the woods to swim in the river on Friday we heard that old familiar trill - sure enough there was a pair of Crested Tits (Mésange huppée).
Nature on holiday in Brittany
White Admiral (Petit Sylvain)
Meadow Brown (Myrtil)
Nature photography Brittany
Wildlife gites south brittany
A new one for us -
Scorpion Fly (Mouche Scorpion)
here a female of the germanica species.
It gets its name from the male's scorpion-like end to the "tail" which is used to grab the female during mating.
I took this shot of mating Azure (or could be Common Blue!*) Damselflies by a local pond on Tuesday. Whilst I'm not certain of the species, I am pleased with the composition although it could have been a lot sharper.
Could it be that this was the inspiration behind the heart symbol (another contender being, of course, swans)?
* (Both species were present and the id points needed to separate them are hard to see from this angle - answers on a postcard please!)
Nature south Brittany holidays
Week 1
Great excitement at the beginning of the week when we finally located the Hoopoes (Huppe fasciée) nest - or rather the area nearby. We were able to observe both adults coming and going with food, which they were taking into the remains of a fallen tree. As they were feeding so low to the ground, we assumed the young had fledged and that at least one youngster had wound up there. Nearby there are two dead trees with very likely nest holes. We continued to enjoy this spectacle over several days. However, visits on the 7th and 8th revealed nothing. Hoopoes usually have a second brood, so we will keep an eye on the site. Another sighting of a Hoopoe on Saturday evening not far from home, but in the other direction.
Cuckoos (Coucou gris) continue to call every day from dawn to dusk. We came across a noisy family of Whitethroat (Favette grisette), with at least 4 fledglings and a few yards further on we surprised a pair of Cirl Bunting (Bruant zizi) - the female had a fecal sac in her beak.
Also on Saturday (7th) we observed a Kestrel (Faucon crécerelle) taking a long, greenish snake (probably a slow-worm) up into a large cavity in a house wall in the village. Again we will keep an eye on this to see if it is a nest. One Melodious Warbler (Hypolais polyglotte) continues to sing not far from the Hoopoes and a Yellowhammer (Bruant jaune) has been singing regularly near the garden.
Two juvenile Starlings (Etourneau sansonette) are feeding on the grass outside the window as I write. These often throw people, as they are all brown, unlike their colourful parents. Other fledglings seen in the garden this week include Blackcaps (Fauvette à tête noire).
On the insect front Meadow Browns (Myrtil) and Small Heaths (Procris) are now abundant - the first being seen on 1st June. Cheryl and Renaud had Marbled White (Demi-deuil) in the marshes on Sunday (8th). I was lucky enough to catch (through the binoculars) a pair of mating Broad-bodied Chaser dragonflies (Libellule déprimée) mating on the wing. Beautiful Demoiselle (le Caloptéryx vierge) are still numerous. Other sightings feature below, with photos.
A friend reported a Wild Boar (Sanglier) feeding at the bottom of his garden on two nights this week.
Nature in Brittany
Ruby Tiger moth (Ecaille Cramoisie) settled on the tyre of the agility course in the garden!
Five-spot Burnette (Zygène du Trèfle)
Wildlife gites south Brittany
Wildlife in South Brittany
Golden-ringed dragonfly
(le Cordulégastre annelé)
I much prefer the English common name!
Rose Chafer (La Cétoine dorée)
although considered a pest by gardeners, this beautiful beetle was in a nearby meadow and not on my roses!
Nature holidays Brittany France
Wildlife holidays self-catering Brittany
Yellow Shell (la Brocatelle d'or)
I took this photo in the garden during late May, but they are still present.
Cream-spot Tiger moth
(l'Ecaille villageoise)
This photo was sent to me by a friend who lives about 20 minutes drive north - it was taken in her garden.
Nature in Southern Brittany
Moths in Brittany
.......... she was also lucky enough to spot this Willowherb Hawkmoth (Sphinx de l'Epilobe).
Click here to see other nature photos taken in our garden and locally

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.