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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

May 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 -

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.

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

Use REFRESH button (on your tool bar) to ensure the page is up-to-date.

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.

Great Peacock Moth South Brittany nature wildlife
Wow! Now that's what I call a moth!
Caught in our moth trap on the night of 23rd May
This Great Peacock is the largest moth in
Europe - it's wingspan was 14 mm.
The French common name is
"Le Grand Paon de nuit"

In all we named 38 species and have photos of a couple of others to work on. In all we added another 7 species to our garden list (including Striped Hawkmoth). The full list will be published here shortly.

More new species for the garden recorded this month. (Butterflies) - Dingy Skipper (Le Point-de-Hongrie). (Moths) - Great Prominent (La Timide); Pale Tussock (La Patte Etendue) and Brown Silver-line (La Phalène de l'Aquiline).

Plus a new species for me – Glanville's Fritillary (La Mélitée du Plantain), which I scooped up in my net not far from home on the Vilaine Estuary.

Another exciting butterfly – Short-tailed Blue (Azuré du Trèfle). One seen on 12 th and two others on 13 th . According to the books this is early, but they don't seem to care! One was present in our garden last year.

Wood Whites (La Piéride de la Moutarde) – still on the wing along the estuary and I finally managed to catch one on camera.

Clouded Yellow (Le souci) - are already on the wing, bringing hopes for a better year than we have had for some time for this species.

Otherwise the month's sightings are as follows :


Bluethroat (Gorgebleue) – One seen close to my mobile hide (the car) along the estuary as I ate my sandwiches on Wednesday 20 th . Other sightings have been reported by our current guests, Roger and Chris during their visits to the marshes.

Great White Egret (Grande Aigrette) – Another report by our current guests.

Purple Heron (Héron pourpré) - one seen by our guests in the marshes.

Whiskered and Black Terns (Guifette mustac and noire) – again seen by our guests.

Nightjar (L'Engoulevant d'Europe) – heard chirring at 10.30 pm on 22 nd in the stand of trees across the neighbouring field.

Red-backed Shrike (Pie-grièche écorcheur) - one seen by our guests during the 3rd week, not far from the gite.

Black Woodpecker (Pic noir) - Having set off to try and find the Red-backed Shrike myself later that same day (in vain!) I saw a Black Woodpecker flying towards home. I grabbed my mobile phone to alert the guests, but unfortunately even though Paul saw it as it flew right over the garden, by the time the guests came to the door it had flown on and disappeared over the trees. Back to the drawing board!

Turtle Doves (Tourterelle des bois) - are back and breeding in the garden and very vocal!

Hoopoes (Huppe fasciée) and Cuckoos (Coucou gris) quieter, but still around and showing well in an around the garden – probably busy with chicks so keeping quiet, proved by the fact that they have flown over us food-in-beak.

Stonechats (Tarier pâtre) have juveniles.

Melodious Warbler (Hypolaïs polyglotte) – now 2 singing males just along the lane from home.

Cirl Bunting (Bruant zizi – be prepared for sniggers from the French when you use this, the correct French common name for this species! The word “zizi” is slang for an intimate part of the male body! ) – busy nesting at at least 2 sites very near to home. One nest has now fledged and the speckled youngsters are a delight!

Yellowhammers (Bruant jaune – no risk there!) – are also singing.

Black Kites ( Milan noir) – a daily site over the garden.

The Dartford Warbler (Fauvette pitchou) seen around for about a week last month has moved on. Fingers crossed for next year!


All my pupils love the idea that the Brits call these insects flying butter!

Swallowtails (Machaon) being seen almost daily in the garden and beyond.

Wood Whites ( Pièride de la Moutarde ) still present along the Vilaine estuary.

Dingy Skipper (Le Point-de-Hongrie) – a first for me also seen along the estuary on 7 th .

Glanville's Fritillary (La Mélitée du Plantain) – caught in my butterfly net along the estuary on 14 th .

Short-tailed Blue (Azuré du Trèfle) – see details above.

Sooty Copper (Cuivré fulgineux) - Two seen in third week of May (one very close to our garden)

Clouded Yellow (Le Souci) - several viewings this month (the first by our guests during the third week).

Meadow Brown (Mrytil) - out on wing 31st.

Large Skipper (Sylvaine) - Out in garden on 1st June

Orangetip (Aurore printanière) – numerous

Brimstone (Citron) – still on wing, though less numerous

Brown Argus ( Collier de corail ) – first of year seen on 7 th

Speckled Wood (Tircis) – our local ones are very bright, unlike in the UK , and many people mistake them for Fritillaries.

Painted Lady (Belle Dame) – unprecedented numbers this year around the hamlet and beyond.

Wall Brown (Mégère)

Small Heath (Procris)

Large and Small White (Piéride

Black-veined White (Le Gazé) – first ones seen on 14 th .

Brown Argus ( Collier de corail )

Holly Blue (Azuré de nerprun)

Common Blue (Azuré commun)

Glanville's Fritillary South Brittany nature wildlife
Glanville's Fritillary
Dingy Skipper
Dingy Skipper South Brittany nature wildlife holiday
Short-tailed Blue South Brittany nature wildlife holiday
Short-tailed Blue
Wood White
Wood White South Brittany nature wildlife holiday


Cinnabar Moth (La Goutte-de-sang, is the excellent French common name – “The drop of blood”!) – bright flashes of red! You can't miss this day-flying moth at the moment!

Speckled Yellow (La Panthère) - Another day-flying moth was out and about in the woods on the 8 th and has since been seen regularly.

Silver Y (Le Gamma) – lots on the wing during the day.

Orache Moth (La Noctuelle de l'Arroche) - We arrived home from a weekend in Jersey on Tuesday (5 th ) to find a very strange insect on the inside of our wooden shutters. I took this photo and put it into a pot to get a closer look with the fieldguide in-hand! But a few minutes later it had finished its transformation – and, wings now dry, I was able to identify it without consulting the books!

Muslin Moth (l'Écaille mendiante) – a very weak female found fluttering pathetically in the garden during the day on the 8 th . I had a male in the moth trap one night during April.

White Ermin (L'Ecaille trigrée) - an individual in flight during the day in the garden on 9 th .

Moth trapping – night of 9th May – 17 species recorded





Obscure Wainscot

La Leucanie obsolète

Eyed Hawkmoth

Le Sphinx demi-paon

Gold spot

La Riche

Lunar Thorn

Le Croissant

Iron Prominent

Le Chameau

Great Prominent

La Timide

Swallow Prominent

La Porcelaine

Pale Tussock

La Patte Etendue

Brown Silver-line

La Phalène de l'Aquiline

Flame Shoulder

Le Cordon blanc

Muslin Moth


White Ermine

L'Ecaille tigrée

Setaceous Hebrew Character

Le C-noir mendiante

Maiden's Blush

L'Ephyre ponctuée

Bird's Wing

La Noctuelle hérissée

Brimstone Moth

La Panthère

Garden Carpet




There were also 8 Cockchafer beetles – huge guys!

Speckled Yellow South Brittany nature wildlife holiday
Speckled Yellow
Brown Silver-line
Brown Silver-line South Brittany nature wildlife holiday


My pupils delight in the idea that flying-dragons really do exist!

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellule déprimé) – several females seen during first week. Then great excitement on the 8 th when a stunning, blue male was busy checking out our new garden pond and was joined by a female. They mated on the wing and then she oviposited into the pond – they repeated this several times and the male kept guard over the pond, chasing off another suitor. During the last weekend of May we counted four males fighting for possession over the pond.

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellule à quatre taches) – a very bright specimen on the wing just along the estuary on 7 th .

Scarce Chaser (Libellule fauve) – a bright orange specimen with vertical, black markings down the centre of the thorax seen in the local woods on 8 th .

Small Blue-tailed Damselfly (Agrion nain) – mating pairs quite numerous and laying in our pond.

Large Red Damselfly (Corps de feu) - again along the estuary on 7 th. This species is distinguished from the Small Red by the colour of the feet (pattes!) – black in the large and red in the small – and the black markings on the end segments of the abdomen.

Emerald Damselfly (Leste vert) – seen by Cheryl in the marshes on 20 th.

Broad-bodied Chaser female South Brittany nature wildlife holiday
"Our" female Broad-bodied Chaser
ovipositing in our garden pond
"Our" male Broad-bodied Chaser
Broad-bodied Chaser male South Brittany nature wildlife holiday
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.