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
May 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.
Moth trapping evenings for our guests here at La Belle Vilaine.


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

 
COMPETITION 2008 !!!!!
Identify our mystery bird.
First Prize
won at 11.52 am 26th May - congratulations to our winner, who lives in Jersey.
Second prize - £50 discount per week's gite rental.* -
still available
Third prize - £25 discount per week's gite rental.* - still available
*Only applies to new bookings made from 26th May 2008 and for holidays taken during 2008.
Entry by e-mail only - request read receipt.

The first, second and third correct entries received will be deemed the winners. Entrants are advised to request a read receipt and retain this for their records. Winner's details will not be made public. Winning entry dates and times will be published on the site. The competition will continue to run until all 3 prizes have been won. The judges decision is final and no correspondance will be entered into.
Mystery bird gites south brittany
Wk 1 We spent the week away on our boat - a 3-hour sail up-river, yet only a 10 minute drive from home! We moored alongside a pontoon in a small town and enjoyed walks along the river. There were Starlings (Etourneau sansonnet) nesting in the silver birch trees along the pontoon. The chicks sounded quite advanced, the nests were all in holes in the trunks and the parents hunted for insects across in the marshland the other side of the river. Each time they left the nest they took away a faecal sac, which they disposed of by dropping it into the river! In the woods above the river banks we found a breeding pair of Spotted Flycatchers (Gobemouche gris). Along the riverside walk we found Reed, Sedge and Fan-tailed Warblers (Rousserolle effarvatte, Phragmite des joncs and Cisticole des joncs) as well as a nesting pair of Lapwing (Vanneau huppé) who were having problems with a Magpie (Pie bavarde). There were also Green-veined White butterflies. Every day as we sat on deck we enjoyed good views of a stunning male Marsh Harrier (Busard des roseaux), and one evening a Kingfisher (Martin pêcheur) dashed past us low over the water. But, for us, the highlight was the regular visits by a very mundane creature (a pest, in fact) - a Coypu (Ragondin). There were several of these rodents around and they were quite vocal during the night. However one in particular won our hearts:
 
Wildlife Brittany
Alby, the Albino Coypu!
(Ragondin)
 
Spotted Flycatcher
(Gobemouche gris)
- one of a pair nesting in woods in the area.
Birding holidays South Brittany France
Wk 2
Butterflies around the garden at the moment include - Swallowtail (Machaon), Map - first generation (Carte géographique), Green-veined white (Piéride du navet), Orange Tip (Aurore printanière), Wall (Megère), Speckled Wood (Tircis), Small Copper (Cuivré commun), Holly Blue ( Azuré des Nerpruns). Along the lanes we have also seen Speckled Yellow (La Panthère) - a pretty day-flying moth.

Whitethroat (Fauvette grisette) are busy breeding in the hedgerows along the lanes and Stonechats (Tarier patre) regularly scold us as we walk by. But the highlight this week was the Tree Pipit (Pipit des arbres - predictable for once!) which we identified yesterday (Friday, 16th). He was serenading us from a telegraph wire and then treated us to his parachuting display, landing in a nearby tree.

Some of the other species which continue to brighten-up our daily walk with the dogs are - Fan-tailed, Reed, Sedge and Cettis (Bouscarle de Cetti) Warblers, Turtle Doves (Tourterelle des bois) (including our usual nesting pair in the Elder tree at the end of the garden), Black Kites (Milan noir), Cuckoos (Coucou gris), Hoopoes (Huppe fasciée) and Cirl Buntings (Bruant zizi).
 
Green-veined White
(Piéride du navet)
Taken a few metres from home, this butterfly is abundant hereabouts at the moment.
Butterflies Brittany
 
Wildlife gites south Brittany
This first-generation Map has been present in the garden for just over a week now, but I have yet to catch the upper-wings on camera! This species has a different upper-wing at this time of year, than the second-generation which we will see later in the summer. The under-wing, however, shows clearly why it is called a Map Butterfly.
 
Nature Brittany France
OK, it's not a perfect photo (no change there then!) but at least it shows the upper-wing of the Map in its first generation. Compare to second generation - follow link to Nature photos at the bottom of this page.
 
Taken just a few metres along the lane from home, this stunning Whitethroat was busily singing away as we passed.
Birdwatching breaks in Brittany
Sun 18th

We set the moth trap up overnight and had a good "catch" - see images below. Then we set off to the marshes with friends. First stop was to check on the big heronry - mainly Cormorants (Grand Cormoran), but also Grey Heron (Héron gris), Little and Great White Egrets (Airgrette garzette and Grand Airgrette) and Sacred Ibis (Ibis sacré). The sounds were amazing from so many busy nesting birds. This was exciting enough on its own, but then the icing on the cake - a BITTERN (Butor étoilé) flew slowly by at head-height and circled us before dropping down into the marsh. And where was the camera ........ in the car! That'll teach us!

Next stop was the White Stork (Cygogne blanche) nests. We hadn't visited them for nearly a month (then they were sitting) and were hoping for some developments. We weren't disappointed - chicks! All photos were taken at good distances from the road with a large zoom - no Storks were disturbed.

Then on to locate the Whiskered and Black Tern (Guifette mustac and Guifette noire) colonies. Our "informer" hadn't let us down! Unfortunately, though, the weather did let us down and so no photos this time. Still we got good views through the scope, but decided not to set off along the canal path to get closer. Other species present at this spot in good numbers were Black-winged Stilts (Echasse blanche).

As we headed back homeward we found Cattle Egret (Héron garde-boeufs) amongst a large flock of Sacred Ibis - yes, you've guessed it, they were in a field of cattle!

 
Birdwatching holidays in South Brittany, France
Birding in Brittany with gites south brittany
 
Moth-trapping Brittany
Poplar Hawkmoth (Le Sphinx du Peuplier)
Our prize-catch so far using our moth trap -
shown on hand for size comparison.
 
White Ermine (l'Ecaille tigrée)
- we had a total of 16 !
I presume the "tigrée" part of the French common
name refers to the body.
This moth feigns death when disturbed - very
convincingly!
Wildlife garden, Brittany
 
Nature in Britany
Brimstone Moth (La Citronnelle rouillée)
A very appropriate French common name - "The rusty citronella"!
 
Swallow Prominent
(La Porcelaine)
This one was a challenge to id
as the Lesser SP is very similar.
This one seems to have less of a white wedge
on the wing than the Lesser (I think!)
Wildlife in Brittany
 
Nature in Brittany

Clouded Border
(La Marginée)

 
Great Oak Beauty
(Boarmie du Chêne)
Moth trapping holidays Brittany
 
Nature in Brittany, France
Muslin Moth (male)
(L'Ecaille mendiante)
As the Muslin moth female is similar to the White Ermine (as I know now!) I fear I may have inadvertantly counted some in with the White Ermine and let them go! The differences are: less spotting on the wing and a white body (the White Ermine's body being orange and black - see photo above).
  Stop press - on the way home late on Sunday evening we saw our first Glow-worm (Ver luisant) of the year.
Week 3
The week has got off to a great start, with 3 new species for the garden list!
 
Sooty Copper
(Le Cuivré fuligineux)
Nature gites south Brittany
 
Wildlife gites south Brittany
Scarce Chaser
(Libellule fauve)
The female ......
 
........ and her mate.
Nature in Brittany
 
Wildlife holidays Brittany
The Lackey (moth)
(La Livrée)
This stunningly coloured caterpillar was hiding in an old cloth in the garden - he is supposed to be on Hawthorn, so I re-located him!
On reading up on this moth, it appears to be considered to be a pest - what a shame when it's so beautiful!
It is also interesting to note the similarity in the English and French common names - both having reference to household servants.
Week 3 ....continued On Tuesday afternoon we did a tour of a nearby lake - a great place for butterflies and dragonflies at this time of year. There is also the Heron colony and nesting Turtle Doves. We had a great time stalking our prey with the cameras and took over 150 photos! Whilst not brilliant reduced in size, they serve as "library images".
 
Azure Damselfly
Wildlife in Brittany and Loire Atlantique
 
Nature sefl-catering holidays Brittany
Beautiful Demoisellle adult male
(le Caloptéryx vierge)
 
Beautiful Demoiselle immature male
Wildlife south Brittany
 
Nature gites south brittany
Female Broad-bodied Chaser
(Libellule déprimée)
(compare with Scarce Chaser female above)
The French name reflects the latin idea that this dragonfly is depressed - it looks quite happy to me!
 
As we walked home a farmer was grass-cutting - my first thought was for the plight of any Skylark nests or other unsuspecting wildlife. Then, as the machinery moved away, we spent over 20 minutes watching a pair of Black Kite (Milan noir) circling the field - they obviously had the same thought, but for different reasons! One of the pair landed and fed on some carrion - proving us both right.
Birdwatching holidays Brittany France
 
Birding in Brittany
Note that the fork in the tail, clear in the photo above, is not always obvious.
 

A group of us attended an event for the Fête de la Nature on Saturday. In the rain! We learnt to identify the song of the Melodious Warbler (Hypolais polyglotte) - thereby solving a mystery for me. The bird I had seen along the lane from home last week was, I was now sure a Melodious.

In the sunshine this morning I re-visited the site and found this little chap. A check on the ipod also and I'm now confident. I even managed this shot. He was one of 3 that we encountered during our walk.

Birding holidays Brittany
Week 4 Within a few minutes of setting off from home on foot we had a Yellow Shell (day-flying moth), a Red Squirrel (photo of his tail in the tree!), Whitethroat (with caterpillar disappearing into low scrub), singing Melodious Warbler, Cirl Bunting, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Fan-tailed Warbler and Reed Warbler. As well as Stonechat fledgelings, Black Kite and Buzzard circling and both Cuckoo and Hoopoe calling in the distance.
A visit to the marshes on Sunday brought good views of hundreds of Whiskered Terns and large numbers of Black-winged Stilt and Avocet mobbing Buzzard and Black Kites, who had succeeded in taking chicks. We also got close views of a pair of Yellow Wagtails collecting insects for their young. The White Storks are busy with their chicks and the huge mixed heronry continues to be a wonderful spectacle - especially when the adults take off to mob passing Marsh Harriers in unison.
Sunday 1st June Hoopoes have been more and more present during this week, we think they may be busy collecting food for young. The Tree Pipit has been continuing to sing from his favourite perch, followed by his aerial display. Male Cuckoos are continuing to call all day long. Both Cirl Bunting and Yellowhammer were singing as we walked along the lane on Friday. A Black Kite circled over the garden yesterday and was mobbed by a Kestrel - I checked him out in the binoculars and found he had something round and smallish in his beak! We counted a total of 6 Turtle Doves around a dead tree yesterday - this tree has a nest which was occupied by a Crow, who now seems to have abandoned the idea. Swallowtail butterfly - 3 sightings during May in the garden.
 
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.